The bye week isn't just for football teams anymore.
Now that they're a little past the halfway point of league play, most women's basketball teams in the Mid-American Conference have the week off, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the University of Toledo.
The Rockets (17-6, 9-1 MAC) have numerous players battling illnesses, along with two forwards coming off concussions and a guard who's nursing a nagging shoulder injury.
Senior Jessica Williams won't practice until Thursday this week in an effort to rest her ailing shoulder, while UT coach Tricia Cullop plans to give the entire team a day off tomorrow before resuming preparation for Saturday's matchup with Ohio at 4:30 p.m. at Savage Arena
"At this point in the season, you've had a lot of games in a short amount of time," Cullop said. "You're trying to cut back on your practice time and you're trying to be smart, so there are certain things that kind of go by the wayside. This week is a great week for us to go back to the basics and really hone in on some things."
Because they've missed time after suffering head injuries, sophomores Lecretia Smith and Yolanda Richardson are two players Cullop highlighted in particular that should benefit from the bye week, allowing them to work themselves back into game shape.
Senior forward Melissa Goodall also could use the week off after battling the stomach flu last week and needing an IV after Wednesday's 58-49 win at Akron.
"We're glad we have the bye week," Goodall said. "It came at a good time, because we've had a long haul coming through the West [Division] and now about to finish up [with crossover play] with the East. It can be taxing on you. We're 10 games in and playing two games a week is tough on the body."
Add in the travel to six different MAC schools and it's easy to understand why the Rockets are so happy to be home this week to close the regular season with four of their six games at Savage Arena.
"Your immune system starts to wear down a little bit, and you get tired from traveling," Goodall said. "So it's definitely good to get a little extra rest and a little extra practice in."
One of the areas Cullop plans to emphasize in practice this week is team defense, which is somewhat hard to believe because the Rockets lead the MAC in field-goal percentage defense (.349) and scoring defense (55.6) in their 10 conference games.
"I do think some things are starting to slip," Cullop said. "We really need to get back to it and tune some things up. I was not happy with our transition defense in the Miami game and I thought we gave up way too many middle drives."
At the same time, Cullop said she's pleased with how well the Rockets have bought into a defensive-minded approach this season, an idea that's hard for some players to grasp.
Early struggles followed by recent successes have helped push the initiative across.
"Early on, we had several games when we didn't shoot the ball well, and I think our players understood that to win the game, we had to get stops," Cullop said. "And then as we continued to win, we gained a lot of confidence and kind of started to hang our hat on the defensive end.
"There are going to be nights when you don't shoot the ball well, but I'm so proud of our team for valuing the end that does win championships. We've got to continue to do that, and that's why I'm so happy this week that we've got time to work on it."
Contact Zach Silka at: email@example.com or 419-724-6084.
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