By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The NCAA, perhaps not known for doing Sooner athletics great favors, appears to have done one for Oklahoma women’s basketball.
It changed the rules.
Not rules about recruiting or scholarships or the time a coach may spend with her players, but the actual rules.
“I love it,” OU women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale said.
Friday was the program’s local media day at Lloyd Noble Center and Coale had plenty to say.
Her newcomers appear to be adjusting to the college game faster than any recruiting class before, Kaylon Williams and Maddie Manning have returned from season-ending injuries without the all-too common fear or re-injury, putting them a year ahead of the schedule many athletes take to return to full strength, and Aaryn Ellenberg, the quiet preseason All-Big 12 selection appears to have transformed herself into a real leader through the offseason.
Coale likes all of that.
Also, she loves the new rules.
Actually, there are two new rules and one very big point of emphasis the NCAA is charging its officials with enforcing.
For the first time, the women’s game will now include the 10-second rule to get the ball across halfcourt. Before, teams could burn as much of the 30-second shot clock as they wished bringing the ball up the court. Also, and this will affect the game much more drastically, the way charges can be taken in the lane is very different.
Already, charges could not be taken inside the half circle at the bottom of the lane, very nearly directly under the basket. Now, if a player begins a move to the basket with the ball from outside the lane, only a player who also began defending that player outside the lane, may take a charge inside the lane. In essence, help defense may come from a post patrolling the basket, yet that post, if she was in the lane all along, cannot take a charge from the penetrating player.
Still, the point of emphasis could change the game the most.
Coale said there will be a limit to the contact a defender may make on the perimeter with the player she’s defending. Also, once position is established in the lane by an offensive or defensive player, the opposing player has no right to push the original player out of her established position. And, finally, cutters moving without the ball, particularly, in the lane, may not be bumped off their course by opposing players simply trying to unsettle an offense’s rhythm.
“Scoring is down. There's not much flow,” Coale said. “Percentages are low. It's just not fun to watch people beat each other up over 94 feet of the floor.”
Also, if additional foul calls are now bound to make for a longer game, the NCAA has addressed that, too. Before, media timeouts were taken at the first stoppage after the 16-, 12-, 8- and 4-minute marks of each half. Now, if a team calls a timeout when a media timeout is owed, or within 30 seconds of when a media timeout is owed, the timeout will be full and be considered the media timeout, limiting the number of stoppages during the game.”
The Sooners like the new rules in theory.
“It will excite you when somebody won’t be riding you down the court the whole entire time,” OU point guard Morgan Hook said. “I think it does play to our advantage.”
The Sooners like to get out and run, and now opposing defenses should have a harder time stopping that rhythm without being whistled.
“I don’t think it will be much of a problem for us just because of the style that we like to play,” shooting guard Ellenberg said. “It could help us with other teams that like to play slower, because we like to play faster.”
In OU’s 2009-10 Final Four season, Danielle Robinson, probably the fastest point guard in the nation, led an offense that averaged 71.7 points per game overall and 67.3 against Big 12 Conference opponents. Eight years earlier, the season Coale first took the Sooners to the Final Four, the Sooners averaged 78.2 and 75.4.
A cleaner, freer game should be right up OU’s alley.
“We’re used to the contact,” Ellenberg said.
But maybe there won’t be so much to put up with.
Follow me @clayhorning