Since the 2002-03 season, the Knox College women’s basketball team has faced Monmouth College 25 times, with those games having resulted in 25 losses. The tide turned Tuesday night with Knox’s 111-90 victory.
Head Coach Emily Cline said that she prepared the team in the same way she would for any other game.
“I try to not get too wrapped up in that, because I don’t want to put any more pressure on, so I try to tell them just go out there and play,” Cline said.
Senior Jessica Howard said that she didn’t think too much about the game before the matchup.
Knox hit the ground running, taking the lead two minutes into the game and never looking back.
Monmouth put forth a competitive effort, bringing Knox’s lead down to five points. However, the Prairie Fire consistently hit timely shots to preserve the lead and keep Monmouth’s runs at bay.
This is the Prairie Fire’s second consecutive game in which they scored over 100 points and hit more than 15 three point field goals.
Cline has made it no secret that the team’s goal is to score in bunches by pushing the pace and pressuring on defense, falling in line with the tenants of the system popularized by the Grinnell College men’s basketball team.
“Well we like to score as many points as possible, and one of our goals is to lead the country in scoring. We’ve had a few games lately where we’ve been in the 60s, and that kind of hurt, but the last couple games we’ve been making up for that,” Cline said.
Knox currently ranks second in team scoring in NCAA Division III women’s basketball at 90.8 points per game, according to the NCAA official site.
“Getting threes is a really big part of our offense, so we get really excited. You can see that excitement on the defensive end, we have more energy on defense when the offense is working,” Howard said.
According to Howard, the team takes every game as it comes.
“We pay attention to those stats, but we don’t go into the game thinking about how we’re number two in scoring. Our big thing is to push the pace and score as much as we can,” Howard said.
Leading by more than 25 points in the second half, Knox’s aggressive style appeared to wear on the Scots, with two Monmouth players receiving technical fouls.
Howard attributed Monmouth’s frustration to the fact that they are Knox’s in-conference rivals.
“I guess that other teams get mad, but it’s not how [Monmouth] was reacting, because we haven’t beat them for eight years or something like that,” Howard said.
Cline praised her players for maintaining their composure, but conceded that the interruptions worked against Knox’s gameplan.
“That actually kind of hurt us, because it slowed the pace. We missed some free throws. We kept our heads, and I was really proud of that,” Cline said.
Clearly Knox performed well in the game, but the margin of victory may have overshadowed some potential shortcomings.
Monmouth left 26 potential points on the floor in the form of missed free throws. Knox fouled Monmouth ball handlers as they brought the ball up the court late in the second half, putting opposing players on the line despite holding a large lead.
A good free throw shooting team could have exploited those opportunities to close the gap.
On the whole, Knox’s aggressiveness lead to 27 Monmouth turnovers on the game and 33 Knox points off turnovers. If Knox continues to force turnovers at such a high rate, then the aggressive style will pay off like it did Tuesday night.
Causing turnovers is a key component of the system Knox runs, that seeks to maximize the number of shots the team puts up in a given game. Knox put up 29 more shots than the Scots on Tuesday.
“Monmouth is a really good team, we played exceptionally well tonight. We did foul too much, and that could hurt us in other games. Thankfully, we had a big enough lead that it didn’t affect us tonight,” Cline said.
The demonstrated success over the last two games of the system Cline has been implementing fares well for the future of Knox women’s basketball.