Fresh from back-to-back victories in preseason exhibition games, the 2008-09 edition of the Sam Houston State women’s basketball team gets a strong test in their regular season opener Friday at 12 noon in Johnson Coliseum.
The Bearkats take on Southern Mississippi, a powerhouse Conference USA team that compiled a 21-14 record including a post-season appearance in the WNIT playoffs.
The Golden Eagles return an experienced team with nine letter winners including all five starters.
“Southern Mississippi is going be a challenge for our young ball club,” Sam Houston head coach Brenda Nichols said. “The exhibition wins over an AAU semi-pro club and an NCAA Division II program have allowed our players to experience some success and gain some confidence. Now we get to see how we measure up against an outstanding NCAA Division I squad.”
The Golden Eagles defeated Sam Houston State 87-69 in both team’s opening games last year in Hattiesburg. Six-foot junior forward Pauline Love led USM with 24 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.
With seven freshman and one junior college transfer, this year’s SHSU squad is an improved team with better shooting and rebounding. In an 82-81 thriller over the Houston Jaguars and a 103-66 victory over Texas College, Sam Houston State hit 53.5 per cent from the field (68 of 127), a far cry for the Bearkats’ 33.8 shooting during last season’s 1-28 campaign.
Senior Lydia Gonzales (13.5 points) and junior Whitney Smith (12.0) have led the Bearkats in scoring in the exhibition season. Both became the first Sam Houston women since 2004 to average in double figures last season.
Transfer Therese Hager and freshman Bre Agnew are adding 9.5 points to the Bearkat cause. Two other freshmen, Mary Beth Renz and Lucy Livingston are averaging 8.0 points.
Junior point guard Ray Alexander is averaging 8.0 assists.
Following Friday’s season opener, the Sam Houston women will travel to Arkansas-Little Rock to play Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., then return to Huntsville for a contest with Centenary on Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m