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Not quite getting the point

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JUNE 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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Last summer, Brendon Unkrich’s team pummeled its way through the Game Time League en route to a championship finish.

Now, however, his squad is off to an 0-2 start to the 2015 season.

“We try to look at every game and find our strengths, whether it’s matchups or whatnot,” Unkrich said. “We just haven’t had that game where somebody’s on fire.”

Part of the problem is that Iowa forward Kali Peschel has been absent from league play in the early going, and she will likely miss Wednesday’s matchup.

Another Hawkeye, Christina Buttenham, has filled in for Peschel in June, providing Unkrich with a formidable substitute.

The real problem is that the team does not have a true point guard on the roster and has been relying heavily on Truman State’s Courtney Strait to bring the ball up and get the offense rolling.

“I made the mistake; I didn’t fill a team out,” Unkrich said. “There’s only a couple of real good point guards in this league; I’m asking Courtney to play point guard, and it’s not her natural position.”

Strait’s natural position is small forward, where she provides a dynamic perimeter-shooting presence. Defensively, she’s also great on the outside — giving her the ability to guard opposing point guards when needed.

The issue is on offense, and Unkrich and Company have struggled to get much going so far. Through the first two weeks, the squad has averaged 62 points per game — worst in the league.

With the eventual return of Peschel, the team has a solid foundation for a potentially great season. Along with Peschel’s post skills, four-star incoming Hawkeye Hannah Stewart adds another force in the paint and sports athleticism to effectively run the floor — often  pushing the ball up herself.

Add that to the offensive and defensive abilities of Strait on the perimeter, and there’s just one piece missing and keeping Unkrich’s team from championship contention.

The only problem is it’s a really big piece — which could alleviate the offensive struggles and turnovers that have plagued the team early on.

“We don’t have a legit point guard on our team, so I and Christina have kind of taken turns taking it down the floor,” Strait said. “I think right now, it’s about getting back in the flow of the game.”

Whether it’s Buttenham or Peschel on the roster, the team has one of the better squads in Game Time. But none of the members have scored more than 15 points yet this summer. Anna Madrigal’s 16 in Week 2 is the team’s season high.

That’s the result of not having a true, experienced floor general who knows how to run an offense and facilitate scoring. And if one does not emerge from the roster soon, this team may continue to struggle to put points on the board.

“We don’t really have someone who’s played point guard,” Stewart said. “It’s something we’re working on a little bit, but it’s definitely not an excuse.”


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