The 2012-13 season for the Lady Lions told a tale of inconsistency between halves, which plagued the team on its run to the Sweet Sixteen.
As senior forward Marisa Wolfe said, the 2012-13 Lions will seek a new look after struggling in one half each game last season.
"Everybody always says we’re a second half team…we’re not," Wolfe said. "We don’t want to settle for that. We want to be able come out the gates, get a lead, and stick to it."
One instance is the team’s field goal percentage between halves. In 33 games, the Lions had only five games where it had a field goal percentage margin between plus-or-minus five between the two halves.
The erratic shooting between halves proved costly, as in the Lions’ seven losses, five featured a field goal percentage difference of plus-or-minus 10 or greater.
For instance, in the team’s early season loss to the Delaware Blue Hens, the Lions came out shooting 50 percent in the first half only to see it drop to 28.9 percent in the second half. In that game, Delaware saw a 9.4 percent increase between halves to come back and take down the Lions 80-71.
However, the fickle shooting did limit itself to the second half. Sometimes it was the opposite.
In the Lions’ loss to Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen, the team came out cold, shooting 33.3 percent in the first half only to heat up in the second half to 40 percent. Yet the 14 point Lady Huskies half time lead was too insurmountable to overcome.
Last year, the Lions captured that halftime lead all but eight times, but this year that early lead will carry the importance.
This season, the Lions will have a new role, now that they are reigning Big Ten Champions.
"Being the hunted, it has a lot to do with what we did last year and we’re not really thinking about that," junior guard Maggie Lucas said. "We’re more focused on what we need to do this year. If other teams see us that way, that means that we need to bring it better. They are going to give us their best shots every night, so we need to be prepared every night."
If they stay focused and not be overconfident they can come back late in the game, they’ll do fine, Wolfe said.
Taking control of the game will rely on taking care of the ball.
In six of the Lions’ seven losses, they turned the ball over more in the first half, averaging 8.8 turnovers, compared to only 5.5 in the second half.
Another aspect that will carry significant importance is if the team can dominate the board.
In the team’s seven losses last season, the Lions only led the rebounding category twice in 14 halves, once in the first half to Delaware and the other in the second half against Nebraska.
According to players and coaches, the heavy emphasis will fall on the guard play.
"Our post players take care of their job and they get rebounds, so it’s definitely the guards responsibility to step up our role as rebounders," Lucas said. "At practice if we’re not in the lane, we’re getting sent over to the bike, so we’re making it more of a habit."
But if there is any indication that the team’s woes will improve, it lies within their work ethic from this summer.
"One thing, I think [head coach Coquese Washington] says quite often about the team, is our kids work extremely hard," assistant coach Kia Damon said. "Anything that we ask them individually to work on in the off-season they attack that area of weakness and turn it into a strength."