By SETH STRINGER
NICEVILLE – If anyone can attest to the strength of NWF State's defense, look no further than Walters State.
At 6-1, ranked ninth in the country and averaging 81 points a night on a 51-percent shooting clip entering Friday's matchup, the Senators had the look of national title contender.
Nearly two hours later they walked off their home court humbled in a 58-35 loss, a feeling that's become all too familiar for NWF State's foes this season.
How impressive was the defensive clinic?
The Senators made just 11 baskets. They were held to 3 of 19 shooting from beyond the arc. They committed 23 turnovers and made just 12 trips to the foul line as they fell 45 points off their season scoring average.
The next night the NWF State women, ranked second in the country, held Gadsden State to nine buckets in an 83-31 win.
"Our staple is our defense," affirmed NWF State coach Bart Walker. "Our defense played really well this past weekend and I thought holding the No. 9 team in the country, a team that made the Elite Eight last year to 11 field goals was really impressive.
"We continue to hold teams well under their season averages."
Through a 7-0 start, NWF State has allowed only Southern Union to top 50 points with 54. If you were to add up the points total from NWF State's last three foes, it still wouldn't top the century mark.
Opponents are shooting just 28 percent from the floor and 26 percent from beyond the arc. They're also committing 29 turnovers a night and being outrebounded by 15 per game.
"We've got good chemistry, good IQ and great team defense which really sets up our offense," Walker said. "We really throw a lot of looks at people."
Offensively, the takeaways are fueling an efficient run-and-gun system shooting 49 percent from the floor and averaging 20 assists a night.
The key has been balance.
Sixth woman Cece Mayo continues to light the nets on fire with 15.2 points a night on 75 percent shooting, while UCF commitment Georgia Gayle follows with 12.9 points and three treys a night on a 42-percent clip.
"Obviously Cece Mayo has been one our big impact players," Walker said. "We thought she was really athletic, but she can multiple positions and really gives us a lift off the bench."
"We've had a lot of balance with scoring and you can see teams struggle scheming us because they can't just key on Georgia or Cece," Walker said. "We have multiple weapons."
And, more importantly, a lack of egos to feed.
"It's a total team effort," Walker said. "No one cares who's putting up the numbers. Versatility is our strength."
Up next the Raiders travel to Fort Myers to face St. Petersburg for a 5 p.m. tipoff Friday and then Daytona State for an 11 a.m. tipoff on Saturday.
"Obviously we just have to keep working on our game, keep getting better every day and just continue to evolve," Walker said. "The key is staying healthy. We've overcome a lot of injuries already, so we're just looking to build on our strengths and grow as a team."