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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Sports

UH women’s basketball has ‘unfinished business’ in 2021-22


After just missing out on the NCAA Tournament last season, the UH women's basketball team believes they have unfinished business to take care of in 2021-22. | Courtesy of UH athletics

After just missing out on the NCAA Tournament last season, the UH women’s basketball team believes they have unfinished business to take care of in 2021-22. | Courtesy of UH athletics

A third consecutive postseason berth, its best finish ever in the American Athletic Conference and its first win over a ranked opponent since 2010 are just a few of the major steps of success the UH women’s basketball team took during the 2020-21 season.

With all the momentum they had built up, the Cougars could not wait to get back on the court in preparation for the 2021-22 season.

“They’re excited,” Hughey said. “They came up with their own slogan for this year- unfinished business.”

The “unfinished business” they are referring to is the Cougars’ narrow miss in making the NCAA tournament.

As the first of the four teams just out of the tournament, the team was able to get a little taste of what they had been working toward the whole season.

“A taste of what could be wasn’t enough,” graduate student guard Julia Blackshell-Fair said.

Blackshell-Fair has a lot to be motivated for this year.

The Fairfield, California native sat out for much of the final stretch of last season due to a torn ACL. Watching her team continue to compete has fueled her for this upcoming year.

“They’re go-getters, they’re dogs, truthfully,” Blackshell-Fair said. “We’re ready for anything.”

One thing that has remained constant from last season to this season is the team’s character.

“The thing that I love about this group is they’re early and ready to go,” Hughey said. “That’s what I think sets the mark for them.”

The atmosphere in the gym before practice started was lively, full of cheers and encouragement.

Sophomore guard Laila Blair attributes this environment to the team’s chemistry.

“I feel like everybody gets along. The energy is great,” Blair said. “I really can’t describe it, but it’s great.”

Blair had a breakout freshman year, averaging 10.5 points per game on the season.

Now a co-captain, Blair is focused on becoming the “ultimate teammate.”

From watching film to working on her shot, the Houston native is ready to take another step forward in her game and let it be on display for all to see on the big stage.

Much of the focus so far has been cultivating and maintaining the new dynamic of this year’s team.

After beginning to lay the foundation over the summer, UH has been working on building the full picture, “brick by brick,” Hughey said.

Intense practices have helped the program come into its identity.

“The competitiveness is crazy,” Hughey said.

The Cougars are gearing up for yet another fierce non-conference season, playing big names like Baylor and Alabama, among other Power Five schools.

“We’re going to attack head-on and let the chips fall where they may,” Hughey said.

The UH women’s basketball program has become more and more competitive under Hughey’s leadership and there are no signs of the trend slowing down.

The drive to win defines the Cougars as they embark on another anticipated season.

“That’s the thing that we pride ourselves on,” Hughey said. “They (the athletes) know that, and if I try to back down from that, they’ll call me out. That’s the thing I love about them.”

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