Commentary: Women’s basketball picking up steam under Hughey
Returning all five starters, seven total letter-winners and a recruiting class with a healthy mix of upperclassmen transfers and talented freshman, the women’s basketball team has already shown improvement from its 6-24 season last year.
Through 18 games, the team is better in almost every statistical category over the last season. Scoring nearly four more points per game, while holding opponents to two fewer points per game, including forcing the three-time defending national champion University of Connecticut Huskies to nearly 20 points below its season average in the Jan 8. game at home.
The Cougars have faced a roller-coaster season, starting out with a tough loss in the last seconds of the season opener to the College of Charleston. They were able to rebound though, picking up their first win of the season in the third game over the University of Louisiana-Layfette.
Following a tough weekend in Austin at the Lone Star Showcase, the Cougars showed a lot of heart and perseverance, winning three out of the next four, including their fifth straight over rival Rice University and heading into American Athletic Conference play on a high note.
Although still without a win through seven conference games, the Cougars have kept the scores close, losing three by single-digits and a heartbreaking loss by two to in-state rival Southern Methodist University that was tied with three seconds to play.
While the Cougars’ offense has shown gains in every aspect, the real standout has been the arrival of guards Serithia Hawkins and Kierra Graves. Although leading the team in rebounds, steals and points while shooting 42 percent from the field, it hasn’t always been easy sledding for Hawkins as the freshman also has a team-high in turnovers and fouls.
Hawkins was named AAC Freshman of the Week on Dec 21. following her first career double-double, after she recorded a then career-high 13 points and 11 rebounds against the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
Graves, a junior transfer from Kaskaskia College in southern Illinois, has started all but one game this season, is third on the team in points following a career-high 15 against Tulsa and is second in steals behind Hawkins.
Senior forwards Marche’ Amerson and Tyler Gilbert have continued where they left off last season, shoring up the front court and providing vital leadership to the younger players. Amerson, on her quest for 1,000 career points, is second on the team in scoring and leads in fewest fouls committed.
Gilbert has been a force in the paint, shooting a team-high 44 percent while picking up 25 blocks and is second with 86 rebounds. Her 1.4 blocks per game rank fifth in the AAC and she is only the sixth player in school history with 107 career block — 15 behind fifth-place Toni Mooney.
With 11 games to play in the regular season, including five at home, the Cougars look to end the season on a high note with some tough conference wins and a competitive showing in the AAC tournament while continuing to show improvement in all phases of the game.