Sports Women's Basketball

Inside UH women’s basketball’s vision, season heading towards AAC Tournament

Junior guard Laila Blair has been a star for UH, leading the Cougars to a strong second-half of the season before heading into the AAC Tournament. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Junior guard Laila Blair has been a star for UH, leading the Cougars to a strong second-half of the season before heading into the AAC Tournament. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Coming off a 60-37 victory against Tulsa during the weekend, the Houston women’s basketball team is shaping up to be a serious contender in the American Athletic Conference.

With the women’s AAC Tournament set to start on March 6, the Cougars currently sit as the fourth seed and can potentially move up to third with one game remaining on their regular season schedule.

For this team, there has been one key date to chase after.

“The mindset for us has always been March 9th. That’s the championship game of the conference tournament,” head coach Ronald Hughey said. “That’s always been the goal.”

Poised to make a run in hopes of chasing a conference tournament title, UH had to overcome adversity and several humps to get to pull off the turnaround that saved its season. 

The Cougars opened their season with a 2-9 record, facing many struggles on and off the court. Since then, the Cougars have gone 10-6 overall with a 9-5 record in conference play. A crucial part of their season, this turnaround sparked a second chance and new life for the Cougars as March rolls around. 

“We just got in the room and aired everything out on the floor,” Hughey said. “We had every person talk and say whatever it was that was bothering them. The greatest thing that happened was that there wasn’t any finger-pointing. It was more in the lines of ‘the best ability is reliability and accountability.’ I think once we did that and came back from Christmas, everybody could get it out, be with their families, and everybody was fresh and renewed. That’s when I think we started to hit our stride.”

Despite the early-season woes, the Cougars have had several statement moments throughout the season. In AAC play, UH put together two separate three-game winning streaks and recorded five wins by double-digit leads including four wins by more than 20 points. 

UH is also the only team to hand conference leaders South Florida a conference loss after a 71-69 road victory for the Cougars against the then No. 24-ranked Bulls.

Another key stat worth mentioning: the Cougars’ five conference losses this season have all come by five points or less, meaning UH has gone down to the wire in very close games.

Even through the tough losses, the Cougars, led by junior guard Laila Blair, remain calm through the most crucial part of their season.

“We’re in a great space,” Blair said. “How I look at it is: as long as you wake up another day, as long as you have another opportunity, we still have everything that we want right in front of us. There’s no need to panic, no need to get frustrated. I’m excited to say how I feel, it’s exciting just for the opportunity. It’s a blessing and a sign that we’re not done yet. I’m excited and ready to take advantage of the opportunity at hand and have fun and be great.”

Paired with Blair in the Cougars’ backcourt is senior guard Bria Patterson, who also plays a crucial role in Hughey’s offense. The core of the squad, driven with leadership as a senior on her last ride, Patterson feels that this moment means more now as a veteran on this team.

“It’s making me feel kind of old,” Patterson said jokingly. “But I feel like it means a little more to me now than it might have my freshman year. I’m looking at it differently, more seriously. I think it’s just really important to build confidence, especially going into March. Just take it one game at a time. I feel like if I could play hard each game and leave everything on the floor, I can live with the outcome, whatever that may be.”

As UH soon makes its way up to Fort Worth for the AAC Tournament, Hughey and the team all have one key takeaway from this moment in their journey.

“In life you have to resist comfort,” Hughey said. “You don’t get a do-over in life, so you have to resist comfort to do what you do every day to be the best that you can do every day. That’s why we always talk about being feelings-driven versus purpose-driven. That’s why we say everything matters. Every single thing matters.”

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