When TWU plays host to Incarnate Word tonight, the game will be the Pioneers’ first in 10 days and their last for the next 15 days. But the extended breaks in the schedule are just fine with head coach Beth Jillson, who has utilized the time to practice on sharpening her team’s offensive and defensive weak areas.
TWU didn’t schedule any games last week due to finals on campus and after tonight’s contest (7 p.m. at Kitty Magee Arena), the Pioneers aren’t scheduled to play again until Jan. 3. A NCAA Division II rule also restricts the team from practicing for seven days — which means from Thursday through Dec. 27 the Pioneers won’t be able to practice as a team.
Jillson, meanwhile, welcomes the break from game action and has tried to focus the team on improving its ball-handling, shooting and defensive schemes.
“The break for finals is great,” she said. “This year it’s been a little different from the past in that we haven’t played any games. So we’ve taken a different approach. We’re practicing for an hour and half every day, getting our conditioning work in and breaking down film.
“Now that school’s out,” she added, “we’ve been able to just focus on basketball.”
The Pioneers are 3-6 overall and 1-2 in Lone Star Conference play heading into tonight’s game against the Cardinals (6-2, 2-0). With TWU ranking ninth in the LSC in scoring offense (56.9 points per game) and turnover margin (minus 2.22), the Pioneers utilized their practice time on improving their ball handling as well as taking — and making — better and more shots.
“I’ve feel like we’ve gotten a lot better, especially offensively,” said Jillson. “We’re taking care of the ball better and trying to make every possession count. We’re getting a lot of shots in, and we need to become a better shooting team.”
The required seven-day break following tonight’s game means the players must maintain their conditioning and basketball skills on their own for the next week. When the team resumes its practices, the Pioneers will have just six days to prepare for the second half of LSC play.
“It’s going to be important for the girls to stay in shape and work out on their own,” said Jillson. “They’re going to have to be very disciplined on their own.”
Incarnate Word currently sits atop the LSC standings. It will be the Cardinals’ final trip to Denton, as the school will make the athletic leap to Division I next year.
Toys for Tots collections
The Pioneers basketball team is joining forces with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and will conduct a Toys for Tots collection drive at tonight’s game.
Fans bringing a new, unwrapped toy to the game to donate to the Toys for Tots program will be admitted to the game free.
The game will pit TWU against Incarnate Word at 7 p.m. at Kitty Magee Arena.
All toys collected at this game will be distributed by the Reserves as Christmas gifts to children in need in the Denton and North Texas area.
Tonight’s game is the Pioneers’ final home game of 2012 and the team isn’t scheduled to return to Kitty Magee Arena until Jan. 9 against Abilene Christian.