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Friday, November 16, 2018

Commentary

Women’s basketball looks to build off last season’s success


Aggies

Last year, UH won 20 games but finished the season on a five-game losing streak. This year, it will be looking to repeat the success from the beginning of the season. | Ajani Stewart/ The Cougar

With fall comes the return of football, cooler weather and iconic holidays, but most importantly, it denotes the approach of another important season: basketball.

The UH women’s basketball team has been patiently waiting for the season to start. Last year was good for the Cougars, and there are a lot of things going right for UH this upcoming season.

Last season, UH had its best season in years. It won 20 games, made the National Invitational Tournament and lost only three times at home. Angela Harris and Jasmyne Harris had great years and established themselves as stars in the conference. Also, the NIT appearance was the team’s first postseason appearance since the 2010-11 season.

The Cougars are bringing back most of the role players that helped the team reach 20 wins. Junior forward Dorian Branch, senior forward Octavia Barnes and senior guard Serithia Hawkins are all returning to the team for this season.

Head coach Ronald Hughey obtained some long-term job security in the offseason. UH rewarded him for the team’s performance with a contract extension until 2022.

UH is being considered as one of the top teams in the conference. The American Athletic Conference Coaches Poll picked the Cougars to finish third in the conference behind UConn and USF.

Perhaps the most anticipated storyline for the new year is the completion of the new basketball stadium, the Fertitta Center.

Both the men’s and women’s teams played all their home games in Texas Southern University’s stadium last season. The women’s first game on UH’s campus in more than a year is against in-state rival Texas A&M on Dec. 6.

Though the team has many refined tools on its side, there remains room for improvement.

The Cougars ended the season on a five-game losing streak including the postseason. UH lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats in both matchups, and it went a mediocre 9-7 against its fellow AAC teams. The team will need to increase its level of performance against conference opponents if it is going to reach the next level.

UH will need to step up its game for its out-of-conference schedule as well.

Last season, the Cougars went 11-5 against teams outside of the AAC. This year’s schedule may make repeating that success difficult. Of the 13 non-conference opponents on the schedule, seven teams won 20 or more games last season. Texas A&M and Florida Gulf Coast University are the biggest opponents, as they each won 26 games last year.

With so many players returning, it is reasonable to think UH will be able to recreate at least some of the success it had last year. But, it will need to find better production outside of Jasmyne and Angela Harris. They averaged 19.6 and 14.9 points, respectively. Hawkins was the only other player to average double-digit points.

The Harris’ were UH’s backbone last year. They were the offensive and defensive leaders on the court. Angela Harris was one of the best defenders in the conference, and she finished the season with 93 steals. Jasmyne Harris was second on the team for steals and third on the team for total blocks.

Both players were charged with leading the offense as well. Jasmyne and Angela threw out 115 and 114 assists, respectively.

While the other individual players will not need much improvement, the team’s performance as a whole will need to improve if the Cougars are going to be successful. UH will be attempting to reach the postseason for the second time in a row.

If the Cougars can play well and build off the success they had last year, UH will solidify its place as one of the top teams in the conference. If the team does not play well, last year’s success will be considered a deviation from the norm.

With the season starting Nov. 6 against the University of California at Berkeley, UH has a chance to prove that its success is here to stay.

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