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Williams: Role players take place in spotlight

12:27 AM, Feb. 21, 2013  |  Comments
UWSP's Liz Althoff protects an inbound pass as she is fouled by Eau Claire's Kristin Sahr in a WIAC tournametn quarterfinal Wednesday in Stevens Point.
UWSP's Liz Althoff protects an inbound pass as she is fouled by Eau Claire's Kristin Sahr in a WIAC tournametn quarterfinal Wednesday in Stevens Point.
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Liz Althoff and Brooke Allen have heard the message over and over again throughout their University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point basketball careers.

UWSP coach Shirley Egner has implored, begged and pleaded not only with the senior duo, but every player on the roster to become more assertive on the offensive end of the court.

While stubbornly reluctant for much of their careers, the message has sunk in for Allen and Althoff, and it couldn't have happened at a better time for the Pointers, who are playing for the postseason lives.

Althoff showed off her scoring prowess with a team-high 15 points and the No. 21 ranked Pointers withstood a stiff challenge from UW-Eau Claire to earn a 67-57 win in a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinal contest in Berg Gym on Wednesday night.

"This year coach has really drilled into our heads that we need to look for our shots and keep shooting," said Althoff, who also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and had three assists. "Whenever everyone shows they can score it makes it more difficult for teams to guard us.

"I was very tentative when I didn't hit my first couple shots. But Brooke doesn't let it bother her and she keeps shooting," Althoff added. "I kind of take after her because we know the shots are going to fall."

Having more scoring threats on the court also makes life harder on teams going out of their way to hassle Pointers' preseason All-American Sam Barber (13 points) non-stop.

It's hard to imagine getting a basketball player to shoot more is a problem. But once you feel your role is defined as being a complementary player or as a supporting role, it's hard to change that mindset.

Egner doesn't believe in recruiting players to serve in that capacity. Every player she bring into the program the coach expects and wants to become a scoring threat. That is why Allen and Althoff are wearing the purple and gold.

"Liz is a heck of an offensive player whether it be slashing to the basket or making free throws or hitting shots. We knew coming out of high school that Alyssa (Olp) was very capable of scoring," Egner said. "Our kids stepped up and when they do that it means we're a "more balanced basketball team."

Althoff took her turn in the lead role in the opening half when she scored 11 of her points to help UWSP build a 32-25 cushion at the break.

She then handed the scoring baton off to junior guard Alyssa Olp, who took it upon herself when scoring options were becoming limited in the second half.

Olp scored on three straight possessions and there was nothing timid about the manner in which she got her points. The Brillion native took the ball hard to the basket and finished at the hoop on her way to 10 points.

Even freshman Autumn Hennes shook her tendency to be timid and showed she can to be part of the scoring act, draining a key 3-pointer and a lay-up in the midst of a second-half charge by Eau Claire.

Now the question is how comfortable are Althoff, Tyler, Hennes and Allen to name a few in their more assertive roles? Or will they revert to form?

Egner hopes the answer is very comfortable to the first, and no to the latter.

Scott Williams is a Sports reporter for Stevens Point Journal Media. He can be reached at 715-345-2282, or by email at scott.williams@cwnews.net.

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