Women’s basketball team hopes for mid-season turnaround

UNA freshman forward Katelyn Nunley drives the lane against Lee University Dec. 17 in Flowers Hall. The Lions (2-13, 1-7 Gulf South Conference) look to find success after a slow start hindered by injuries and a lack of depth.

The first half of the season for the UNA women’s basketball team has not quite lived up to expectations.

The Gulf South Conference coaches picked the Lions (2-13, 1-9 GSC) to finish fifth in the preseason poll, but injuries and a lack of depth have hindered the team from success.

“We started in preseason with both of our returning point guards injured,” said UNA head coach Missy Tiber. “It’s been a bad year with injuries and how they have affected us, but I think we can overcome some things down the stretch. Our mindset the last couple of days is where it needs to be.”

Senior guard Janae Lyde recently recovered from a concussion, sidelining her for four weeks. Throughout the season, the Lions have seen key players suffer injuries, including freshman guard Jennifer McMahan and sophomore guards Jaclyn Heath and Shay Trent. Tiber said Trent, who would have had an important role with the team, is out for the year.

The biggest hole in UNA’s rotation before the holiday break was the lack of a true post player. Tiber addressed this problem during the break, recruiting one of her former players from her previous stint at Southern Illinois.

Alexus Patterson, a 6’1’’ senior from Knoxville, Tennessee, played just five games her final season for the Salukis last year. Tiber said Patterson still had eligibility and expressed interest in another opportunity to play.

“Alexus is really going to help us once we get her in shape,” she said. “Our team has to understand when to pass her the ball. When she gets the ball down on the block, she can really score. She is a real power player.”

Patterson said her transition to Florence has not been easy, but her coaches and teammates have helped in the process.

“I’m adjusting well with the team and with practice, but I’m still trying to figure out my way around here,” Patterson said. “My teammates reached out to me and asked if I needed help moving in. They do a good job of making me feel like a part of the team.”

Before Patterson’s arrival, the Lions leaned on freshman forward Katelyn Nunley to play the post. Nunley said she feels less pressure playing outside the post, but wanted to do what was best for the team.

“I feel a lot more comfortable outside,” she said. “I’m happy that I can pass the ball inside and work my driving game a bit. It takes a lot of pressure off me and gives us another leader on the court.”

The Lions, whose only conference win came against West Alabama Dec. 13, shot 43 percent from the field, including 16-34 from behind the arc. Heath propelled the team with 26 points, hitting 7-12 from downtown.

Tiber said the difference in the conference win was simply hitting shots, as many of the losses included low shooting percentages.

“We’ve had games where we didn’t shoot the ball well, but I know we are a better shooting team than that,” she said. “We shot the ball well in practice since the break, but we need to carry that confidence over into the games and get the same type of shots.”

UNA hopes to turn around its woes in a three-game home stand as they face UAH Jan. 16, West Florida Jan. 21 and Valdosta State Jan. 23, all in Flowers Hall.