Basketball games are often recognized by the sound of sneakers stopping and starting on the hardwood floor. Those who have been to Knox College women’s basketball games this season, however, have been hit with a more unwanted noise: that of the referee’s whistle.
“It is frustrating in some games, because there is no flow to them,” Head Coach Emily Cline said.
The efforts of the NCAA to re-emphasize hand-checking and defensive blocking fouls have rendered many of the Prairie Fire’s games to stop-and-start affairs.
“There are definitely things that [the referees] have called this year more consistently than in the past,” Cline said. “For example, two hands [on a player] is now an automatic foul, whereas in the past it had been ignored some.”
The stricter enforcement did not come from thin air, according to Cline.
“It was discussed at [the] coaching convention in April, and we’ve received emails and required videos from the NCAA,” Cline said. “There was plenty of education about it for sure.”
The difficulties have come when trying to replicate game-like conditions in regular practice.
“We call more fouls in practice and emphasize it by giving points rather than just having the offense take the ball back at the top of the key, but to be honest we can’t replicate a lot of things because of the style we play.”
Knox’s press, active style of offense relies heavily on aggressive and risk-taking defense, making them even more prone to the changes. Last season Knox surrendered just over 24 free throws per game. This year the number is close to 33.
“We have not been able to push teams to exhaustion because there are so many stoppages,” Cline said. “We don’t get to keep our tempo where we’d like it.”
Not all of the results have been negative, however.
Junior Jodi Marver, who led the Prairie Fire with 6.65 free throw attempts last season, is getting to the line 8.46 times per game so far this year. The Prairie Fire have also seen an impact in crunch time.
“If we are up late in games, we definitely look to drive more knowing they are calling it tight,” Cline said.
While the foul calling may not be to Knox’s advantage all the time, Cline understands the system is a part of a grander scheme.
“At our level, we’re at the mercy of Division I. It comes down to whatever they want to do. If they are happy with the changes, [the rules will] stick. If not, they won’t. The big emphasis in women’s basketball has been to [have more scoring], so my guess would be that they’ll stick.”