ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sara Halasz got up pumping her fist and shouting.
The junior guard had just swished an off-balance jumper as she was being bumped to the floor. Halasz then stepped to the foul line to complete a four-point play.
Women: UNM at UNLV, 8 p.m., 610 AM
Yes, and before you ask, the shot was not a 3-pointer and the NCAA hasn’t suddenly changed basketball shot values.
Halasz’s shot came during an intriguing scrimmage drill introduced at University of New Mexico women’s basketball practices this week. Under the odd scoring system, Halasz received one point for her basket, one for the ensuing free throw, and two points for drawing a foul.
Odder still, freshman Khadijah Shumpert effectively offset Halasz’s dramatic play simply by getting knocked backward. Shumpert earned four points by taking a charge from Ebony Walker during an intrasquad scrimmage at the Davalos Center.
Confused? Well, suffice it to say this scrimmage featured more complex scoring than traditional basketball.
The “defensive” scoring system awards two points apiece for steals, one-shot-and-done possessions, blocked shots and deflections. The biggest prize is earned by taking a charge.
“The whole thing really centers around defense,” Lobos coach Yvonne Sanchez said after the scrimmage. “We felt like defense let us down in our last few games, so we wanted to do something to emphasize it.”
Offense still carries value. One point is awarded for a traditional field goal or a free throw. Shots from behind the arc are worth two points. Offensive rebounds earn two points, and assists are worth three.
The unusual system required two UNM staff members to keep score, but it produced spirited competition among the Lobos.
Shumpert’s four-point charge – and Antiesha Brown’s one-point put-back with a second left – helped the Cherry team defeat the Silver 46-45 in the scrimmage.
“It got pretty intense out there,” freshman Bryce Owens said of the drill. “Defense is what sparks our team, and this rewards you for playing good defense. I think it raises our intensity. I like it.”
UNM (8-5) is in the midst of a 10-day schedule break that ends with Wednesday’s Mountain West Conference opener at UNLV. If nothing else, the defensive-oriented scrimmage brought some extra fire to practice.
“It gets very competitive,” Halasz said. “It’s fun because you can score points on defense. People really get after each other.”
Sanchez hopes the drill will foster defensive intensity when the Lobos return to the court. UNM ranks among the MWC leaders in most defensive categories but was scorched for a season-worst 84 points in last week’s blowout loss at 23rd-ranked Colorado.
That passive performance inspired Sanchez to disrupt the status quo. She’s promised lineup and player-rotation changes to go along with the new practice drills.
“Mentally, it was a bit unnerving to get beat as bad as we did,” Sanchez said. “Colorado’s a great team, but we didn’t play anything close to our best basketball. Going into conference, we felt like this was the time to refocus, change some things up and start fresh.”
Halasz said the changes and the impending start of conference play have brought increased urgency to practice. Three of UNM’s first four Mountain West games will be on the road, and the Lobos know they cannot afford to play as poorly as they did in Boulder.
“That was unacceptable,” Halasz said. “We challenged ourselves as a team after that game, and practices have been a lot more competitive this week. If we all push each other, we’ll push our opponents even harder. That’s the mentality we need right now.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal