Stephens College women's basketball no longer strictly by the book

Saturday, December 4, 2010 | 7:17 p.m. CST; updated 8:25 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 4, 2010
Stephens College coach Bill Bixon instructs his players against Manhattan Christian on Saturday. With nine freshmen, Bixon's emphasis has been on basketball concepts rather than strategy. he says he's tried to give his team more freedom and more creativity without having to worry about a playbook.

COLUMBIA — Stephens College women's basketball team doesn't play by the book.

With a total of nine players, five of whom are freshmen, and a new head coach and assistant coach, the Stars have ventured away from a traditional playbook and have made their focus the fundamentals of basketball.

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The Stars will play their next game against Principia College at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Silverthorne Arena in Columbia.

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Head coach Bill Bixon has made teaching and reinforcing concepts of basketball his priority. Although he did bring over some plays from his previous coaching experience at Webster University in St. Louis, he has found that the Stars are most successful when they just play.

The Stars used that method in their 73-47 win against Manhattan Christian College on Saturday. The win was their second straight and improved their record to 3-5.

"We've tried to give them a little more freedom and a little more creativity," Bixon said, "and not worry so much about running the play as we are about reading the defense and making a decision and playing together off of that."

The new style of play has been challenging for the Stars.

"You can tell which girls have come out of a program where they have run a lot of set plays. The freshmen have kind of struggled with it," Bixon said. "I think there are times where they worry so much about making the right play that they forget about playing basketball."

Bixon thinks certain members of his team were recruited to play different ways, but he plans to enforce his coaching style.

"It's going to a be a battle, but we're going to grow and get better," he said.

Junior Megan Sheffield was familiar with the former style of play that involved a lot of set plays on offense. She thinks the Stars' new free-flowing offense has provided an effective transition for a team full of newcomers.

"It's a totally different view than what we had before," Sheffield said."I like it a lot better."

The Stars have had more opportunities to demonstrate their ability to be successful without set plays. After a slow start, the team is being given more opportunities to demonstrate its abilities as a group. It was unable to practice with its whole squad until two days prior to its first game because three of its starters played volleyball for Stephens.

In the Stars' most recent win, Bixon preached patience. They ran their flex offense for the first time. Freshman Brittany Tutt scored 14 points with 3 assists.

"I think that we played better in a flex. It allowed me to do things that I'm better at. I got to drive and go to the basket," Tutt said.

The Stars will play their next game against Principia College at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Columbia.

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