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Women’s Basketball Makes Conference Tournament

Sean Lynch, Reporter

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At 17-6 (10-2), the women’s basketball program has clinched a berth in the MAC Freedom Tournament for the first time since the 2011-2012 season where they won their first conference championship and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

In addition to their third place position in the conference, the Cougars sit fourth in the Atlantic Region, according to ncaa.com

Prior to this year, the Cougars had an overall record of 29-70 through four seasons.  Their best campaign in that stretch was in 2012-2013 when they went 12-13 in Allison Kern’s first season at the helm of the program.

So how is it that the program has been able to turn it around and be contenders for home-court advantage in the conference tournament?  To answer that question, look to the top with new head coach Jason Rhine.

Rhine, in his first head coaching position, came to Misericordia from Aurora University (IL) where he served as an assistant coach, helping the team to a 17-11 record and a runner-up finish in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.

Rhine has been a part of many successful basketball programs since he began coaching as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Keystone college from 2010-2012.

Perhaps his greatest accomplishments to date have come from his time as an assistant and recruiting coordinator under Jess Strom at Division II California University of Pennsylvania.  In his two seasons as an assistant, the Vulcans posted a 40-18 record while advancing to the “Sweet Sixteen” of the NCAA Tournament. His recruiting abilities brought in the student-athletes who helped the Vulcans win the 2015 NCAA DII National Championship.

Rhine has brought a  different dynamic to the Cougars, who were in  desperate need of a change, and it isshowing on the court. Compare this season’s stats to Kern’s in the 2015-2016 campaign.

Offense 

One of the key things to note in this comparison is that four of the five Cougar starters from last season – Justine Seely, Rachel Carmody, Japriya Carrol, and Leanne Forsyth all start this year. So for the most part, the starting five virtually remains the same.

Through 23 games, the Cougars have already scored 1,545 points, averaging 67.2 per game. Last season, they only scored 1,497 points in 25 games with an average of 59.9 points per game.

Although their field goal percentage has only increased from 36 percent to 37 percent, the Cougars have taken 31 more shots this season, partly due to the fact they average seven more rebounds, climbing from 43 to 50 per game.

A key to that success comes from the dominance displayed by the team’s frontcourt led by Seely and Carmody. Seely is averaging a double-double, putting up 16.2 points and collecting 11.4 rebounds per game.  Carmody, capable of scoring a double-double in any game, averages 11.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Although most of the key backcourt players are averaging less points per game than last season (with the exception of Shannon Croasdale and Jaclyn Hajec), they are making up for it in their ball movement.  The Cougars average 15 assists and turn the ball over 18 times compared to last season’s 12 assists and 21 turnovers.

Defense

Team defense has improved significantly.  Although they average roughly the same amount of steals and blocks per game at 8 and 5 respectively, they have forced the opposition to take tough, contested shots.  Misericordia’s opponents average 57.0 points per game on 33 percent shooting from the field. Last season, their opponents averaged 66.7 points per game on 39 percent shooting from the field.

First year forward Paige Wompole has come off the bench to help the frontcourt dominate the paint, limiting opponents to just over 36 per game; three less than last year.

The Cougars go on the road for their final two games of the regular season against #2 Desales (10-2) and #6 Manhattanville (4-8).  If they beat Desales, to whom they previously lost 44-41 on Jan. 21, they have an opportunity for home-court advantage in the first round of the conference tournament. A win against both Desales and Manhattanville should guarantee them the #2 spot.

 

 

 

 

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Women’s Basketball Makes Conference Tournament