The women’s basketball team kicks off its season with back-to-back exhibition games Thursday and Friday night. The Chadron Eagles come in from Nebraska to play the Cougars on Thursday, followed by in-state competitors the Dixie State Red Storm on Friday.
“Chadron has been a very consistent Division 2 team,” BYU Assistant Coach Chris Boettcher said. “Typically size-wise they’re not as big as us, but they are a scrappy, hard-working team. They’re a fun team to watch just because they run through 13, or however many players are on the roster, and they all work their tails off.”
Last year Chadron finished its season with an 8-18 record, Dixie State made its mark with an 18-8 mark and BYU finished 26-7.
“(Dixie State) has some Division 1 transfers that make them immediately stronger at the beginning of the year when most teams, even like ours, are developing those first few weeks,” Boettcher said. “Having those people with Division 1 experience come into the big arena they’re not as intimidated, whereas Chadron’s going to come in and it’s going to be an eye-opening experience to be in such a big arena.”
Exhibition games are a preseason “test run” for the team that helps the players get used to the high intensity of game mode.
“I think they’re for getting everyone into the game,” junior guard Kim Parker said. “There are a lot of girls that have never played a college basketball game and so to get them in a game early on just helps them calm their nerves and to learn team flow as well.”
Exhibition games are handled differently than regular season games according to substitutions and game play.
“Coach Judkins’ substitution patterns will be different,” Boettcher said. “We want to see the younger kids in game experience with the lights turned on, so substitution will be a lot more free. Whereas in a regular game, the minutes are determined by how well they’re playing in those positions. We’re going to try a lot of different combinations to see how the young kids play with the older kids.”
The ability to substitute frequently is a relief to many of the players since back-to-back games can be tiring.
“We’re not used to (playing back-to-back),” senior guard Haley Steed said. “But I think the fact that these are exhibition games and a chance for (Judkins) to play different people and see who’s playing good helps, because having a deep bench is nice when you’re playing back-to-back games.”
It’s not just the physicality factor for the team either, there are many things that go into each game played.
“It’s tough to play back-to-back games,” sophomore guard Lexi Eaton said. “We’ll have to really focus on preparing ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally so that we can come out and have a great game on Friday as well.”
While exhibition games may be a time for experimentation, the team already has some goals in mind.
“Number one, I would say defensively we want to hold these teams to a low point total, obviously that’s a huge focus,” Steed said. “And offensively, I would say to work on our motion, get some ball movement, take smart shots, get into a good offensive flow.”
These games are a chance for the girls to show BYU fans they’re worth watching.
“Goals would be obvious to get the win for both games,” Eaton said. “We want to show everyone kind of what we have and get people excited about coming to our games. I think we’re going to be a fun team to watch this year. We’ve got a lot of variety, have good post presence inside and deep guard play.”
The Cougars have been gearing practices lately toward game play to get ready for these exhibition games.
“The two keys we’ve been really working on in preparation for games is defense execution,” Boettcher said. “Being able to have a lot of different presses and different looks. Match-up wise, knowing that we’re going to have some mismatches size-wise, so how to cover for each other, double team, help, recover, all those types of things. And just consistency in everything we do both offensively and defensively, slowing down because in the beginning of the season you’re usually a lot more excited so you speed things up. We want consistency, slow things down, execute, all at a pace that we will do two months from now, not just the first game.”
BYU and Chardon hit the court on Thursday at 7 p.m., and BYU competes against Dixie State Friday at 7 p.m. Both games take place in the Marriott Center.