By BRIAN PELOZA For the Kokomo Tribune
---- — When IUPUI women’s basketball player Nicole Rogers is on the floor, it doesn’t take much advance scouting to figure out what she’s going to do: shoot from the perimeter.
Still, few opponents have slowed the former Western standout.
Rogers has made a 3-pointer in every game this season for IUPUI (12-6, 2-1 Summit League), which set a program record this season for non-conference wins. The sophomore is averaging 7.8 points per game, with 85 percent of that scoring coming from the 3-point line.
“When she’s locked in and coming off screens, she’s one of the best shooters I’ve been around,” said IUPUI coach Austin Parkinson, a former Indiana All-Star from Northwestern. “Nicole’s biggest asset for us is the ability to stretch the defense from 3-point range. That spaces the floor for other players and she’s given us a lift, for sure.”
Several factors have allowed Rogers to succeed shooting from the perimeter, despite just 17 of her 122 field goal attempts coming inside the 3-point line.
“First, we run her off a lot of screens, so that movement gets her a lot of opportunities,” Parkinson said. “Second, we play a lot of people. Nicole is not playing 30 minutes and we have a lot of different weapons.”
IUPUI has 10 players averaging at least 13 minutes a game, with only four playing more than 20 minutes. Rogers averages 16.6 minutes per game.
“We have a lot of players that are great drivers to the basket,” Rogers said. “If I’m covered, then the driving lanes are wide open for them. If they’re not respecting their drives, which they have to, then they can kick out passes to me for open shots.”
Rogers’ 18-game streak with at least one made 3-pointer is the longest in the program since the 2005-06 season. She’s shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, ranking fourth in the Summit League for players who average at least 1.5 made 3-pointers per game.
While she went through a 3-for-20 slump from the 3-point line during a recent three-game stretch, Rogers bounced back by making four 3-pointers at North Dakota State and four more against South Dakota.
“Offensively, I love that she’s been aggressive,” Parkinson said. “She was in a stretch where she struggled, but what I was proud of is that she kept being aggressive. We need her to have that aggressive mindset.”
While she shot a team-best 33 percent from the 3-point line last season, Rogers has performed more consistently this season. Excluding her three-game shooting slump, she’s making 43.5 percent of her 3-pointers this season.
IUPUI is 8-1 this season when Rogers has made at least two 3-pointers, a feat she accomplished eight times as a freshman..
“She’s grown tremendously from her first year to second year, which is what you want to see,” Parkinson said. “She can be one of the best shooters and offensive weapons in our league if she continues to focus on getting better.”
Rogers’ improved play this season can simply be attributed to adjusting to the collegiate game.
“There was really no team that was too big or too quick to handle in high school,” Rogers said, “so I basically could get the speed I wanted to and no team could control the tempo. Now, the other teams can slow us down in various ways and it was an adjustment to that.”
One of the biggest adjustments for Rogers has been on the defensive side, where IUPUI applies full-court, man-to-man pressure.
While Western was successful defensively, allowing just 33.7 points over six postseason games of a Class 3A semistate run when Rogers was a senior, it was a completely different style.
“Other than my junior year, we played a lot of zone,” said Rogers, who had four different head coaches in four seasons at Western. “With our lock-down zone, we held all of the sectional opponents to under 30 points. Our defense in the zone was pretty great, so I never played a lot of man, except for my junior year, and even then we weren’t pressuring very hard.”
Rogers started the first five games of the season, came off the bench for the following six games, and has started the past six games. Parkinson said he was looking to find the best lineups to play together, while also hinting that Rogers’ defense needed improvement.
“We don’t compromise our defensive foundation,” Parkinson said. “Whether it’s Nicole or anybody else, sometimes we have to re-emphasize that, which we have. But she’s continued to improve defensively.”
In the long run, Parkinson is confident the 5-foot-11 Rogers will be a solid defensive player.
“Nicole has the ability to defend physically, but she has to continue to improve her beliefs that she has the abilities to do it,” Parkinson said. “... Nicole is probably one of the smartest players I’ve been around. She’s highly, highly intelligent. That can be a double-edge sword. It can be very good, but sometimes she’s really hard on herself. If she’ll continue to believe in herself then she will keep getting better defensively.”
IUPUI went 20-12 last season and was selected to play in the WNIT. With a strong returning nucleus and freshman class, the Jaguars were picked to finish second in the preseason Summit League poll.
“Nobody is taking us for granted, which has been a learning process for our kids on how you play with those expectations,” Parkinson said. “... Our goal is to win a championship and we feel we’re taking steps in that direction. We talk about doing the little things, and it sounds simple, but boxing out on every position and playing good transition defense. If we’re able to do things consistently, we think we’ll give ourselves a chance to win more often than not.”