'Point post' can keep the pressure off Irish women

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

Any team that plans on pressing Notre Dame better be ready for a tough matchup.

A point post.

Kinda like a point guard except with 6-foot-3 Taya Reimer or 6-2 Kathryn Westbeld.

A guard in a post’s body. Try putting the clamps on that.

Women’s college basketball hasn’t invented the antidote for that just yet.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno scratched his head about the success the Irish had with that tactic in Sunday night’s NCAA Tournament second round game. The Blue Demon defense thrives on the full-court game, but the press was relatively ineffective because DePaul didn’t have an answer for Reimer or Westbeld.

Assign a guard and give up some size? Or, assign a post and give up some speed?

Now that’s a dilemma.

Notre Dame’s ability to break the press in a unique way has coerced many teams into abandoning the strategy before even trying it.

How Stanford deals with the situation Friday night in the NCAA Tournament’s Oklahoma City Regional will be part of the chess match.

“(Having the posts bring the ball up) ignites our transition faster,” said Irish assistant coach Carol Owens, who specializes with the posts. “It gives us another ballhandler when (the defense) is trying to take the other guards away. It’s difficult when you’ve got a post that can bring the ball up the floor.

“If we’re scouting another team and their (post) can handle the ball well, we have to change some things. I can see how (Bruno) would find that difficult.

“We like it. We’re a transition team and it helps when they can bring it up so quickly.”

Reimer and Westbeld are unique athletes who just happen to fit the description of a solid ballhandler despite their size.

“It’s something I’d always done in high school, but last year they didn’t want me focused on handling the ball,” Reimer, a sophomore, said. “They wanted me to get used to playing first.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with that now. As my confidence grows, I feel I can take on more and more.

“It changes the workload. It’s definitely more. But it’s just part of the game plan.”

“On every team I’ve ever been on, I’ve been one of the press-breakers,” Westbeld said. “It wasn’t anything different for me.

“It’s nothing new to me. (Physically), I’m fine with it. It doesn’t put too much on me.”

Reimer said she has the opportunity to be creative. Find a lane, head to the basket. Feel some heat, dish it off.

“If anybody crowds me in the middle, then I’m looking for a guard,” Reimer said. “If there’s an open space, (head coach Muffet McGraw) gives me the green light to attack it – either score myself or find someone on the wing.”

“Taya and Kathryn have good guard-like skills,” Owens said. “They have good feet and hands. Their shot from the perimeter, around the free throw line, is getting better. If you have a post that’s not used to guarding that type of player, that’s used to guarding a traditional post player, that’s an adjustment they’ll have to make.”

Adjusting to an athlete with those abilities can be a difficult process. Most resort to that sort of pressure only in an emergency – just before the lights are ready to go out.

“About 25 percent of (our opponents) try to (press),” Owens said. “Coach McGraw does a good job of preparing. We work on a lot of situations so that when it does happen, it’s not a surprise.

“(Stanford) isn’t necessarily a pressing team. But their guards like to pick up early in the backcourt. We expect they would do the same against us. They’ve got quick guards that can stay with our guards.”

But that “point post” can cause plenty of problems.

Sophomore post player Taya Reimer (12) is one of Notre Dame's unconventional weapons against full-court pressure.

Who: No. 1 seed Notre Dame (33-2) vs. No. 4 Stanford (26-9)

When: Friday, 10 p.m. (EDT)

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.

TV: ESPN

Radio: WHPZ-FM (96.9), WHPD-FM (92.1)