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“Listen up, here!” Rhode Island Coach Cathy Inglese in real (game) time on physical defense and killer three-pointers

January 6, 2010 – 3:48 PM
Coach Cathy Inglese during a time out

Coach Cathy Inglese wants tougher defense against Holy Cross


The Playbook

The Playbook is an occasional series on University of Rhode Island Women’s Basketball team and head coach Cathy Inglese as she works to turn around a losing program. Check out previous installments here, here, here, and here.

By Laura Pappano

With 3:31 to go, it is a six point game, 65-59, Cathy Inglese’s URI Rams trailing Holy Cross at the Hart Center in Worcester.

Three good things have just happened: 1) Lindsay Harris sunk two foul shots, 2) the Rams flat out rejected a Holy Cross shot, sending it skittering away from the basket at a downward angle, and 3) a few seconds later URI freshman Anisha Wilson, a 5’6” bundle of speed and intensity, leapt up, Randy Moss-like, and stole a Holy Cross pass out of the air.

Time out called. Rolling Stones come on mid-song at full volume. URI fans rumble the wooden bleachers with their feet. Could this be it? Could this be the momentum-shift URI needs?

Coach Inglese, clipboard in hand, kneels on the wood floor in her pinstripe slacks. “Listen up here,” she says, and starts drawing and shouting over the music with an intensity that has every player focused on her black magic marker and the message that comes with it: “We are playing reactive!” We need to push them on defense. Don’t just stand there! Don’t just be a body! Emanate energy! Challenge them physically!  “We are GIVING them OPEN THREES!!”

When it is over, 80-71, Holy Cross players are whooping it up in celebration, banging their fists against metal AC venting in the hallway leading into the locker room.  And why not? It’s their first home win and the end of an 8-game losing streak.

For URI, which entered this game 7-7, the loss came down to defense – and three-pointers. Holy Cross was a stunning 13 for 22 (59.1%) from 3-point land. (Game stats here.)

Put another way, they scored 39 of their 80 points on threes. If those shots had been two’s the score would have been 67, not 80.  How do you defend against that kind of shooting?

Before she steps into the locker room – as she does before halftime and (though more briefly) during time-outs – Coach Inglese gathers her coaching staff to hash over what they see, what stats show, and proposed adjustments.

There is always a message, but part of building a team, Coach Inglese will say later, is that she needs to give the same message many times, that some players “get it” and some still don’t. That like someone learning new dance steps who is suddenly lost when the full-tempo music comes on, DI basketball is a detailed, skilled business that runs at warp speed. It takes time to master.

At halftime, she let them know that they had dug a hole, but warned, “I’m not asking anyone to play extra ordinary.” Her message then was about defense and team play. “Everyone is out there doing their own thing. That was 10 games ago. The games we’ve won, we’ve played as a team,” she says. “They are jacked up. We let them get hot. It’s all about you. It’s not about them.”

Despite the message that if they played their game (instead of just responding) that they could win, it happens some — but not enough. In the locker room afterwards,  there is the smell of sweat and the sound of silence. The players sit on wooden benches, shoulders slumped, knowing what’s coming. Coach Inglese, intense, but purposeful, fires. “What lost us this game?”

After a very long quiet, a voice offers, “Defense.”

“Our transition defense was God awful!” she says. “This team is not that good! We made them look good!”

She is concerned that players aren’t making the adjustments she’s asking them to make. “What are you guys afraid of?” she asks.

Her point is this: if opponents keep beating you on drives to the basket, if they keep beating you on three-pointers, then know they will do those things and step up your defense against those tendencies. “You’ve got to make them beat you on something else!! Make them beat you another way!!!”

Her messages to players during time-outs (plus halftime) have been the same messages — and that’s the well of her frustration. As she wraps up, she gives them the positives – they outscored their opponent in the second half (four players scored double digits), they out-rebounded Holy Cross (34-30) and killed them on the offensive boards (17-7). Later, when they are showering and heading to the bus, she gathers some perspective. They are good kids, no attitude, no eye-rolls — nothing — when they are yelled at or yanked for messing up. They listen. They are trying.

At 1:42 a.m. Coach Inglese e-mails. She has gone over the film and she wants to point out that there are some small, but worthy developments. Players are talking and interacting more, showing more emotion.  When one player was knocked down on defense, another jogged over and helped her up.  “Believe me,” she writes, “this was big. Small signs that mean a big thing.”

And, she acknowledges, Holy Cross was hot.  “I wish the outcome could have been a little better,” she writes, “but after watching the game tape I have to say that Holy Cross hit a lot of big 3’s…we were on them for many and they still put them in.” (Video post-game interview with Coach Inglese here).

URI at attention for the national anthem before playing Holy Cross Jan. 5, 2010

  1. 2 Responses to ““Listen up, here!” Rhode Island Coach Cathy Inglese in real (game) time on physical defense and killer three-pointers”

  2. wow is all I can say to that post. It was written with such composure.After reading that I am going to buy tickets to a URI game.I have never really followed college basketball.But I would love to go to a game.go rams

    By gene carlan on Jan 6, 2010

    By gene carlan on Jan 6, 2010

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  2. Mar 3, 2010: fairgamenews.com » Blog Archive » They bring fight, but get sunk by fouls: Rhode Island women’s season ends (Year 2 begins)

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