Lady Tigers set for Gulf South tournament
Special to The Star
Feb. 28, 2001
The goal for every Gulf South Conference school at the beginning of each season is to make it to the conference tourney in early March. Despite a slow start, the University of West Alabama women picked up some key wins down the stretch and earned a trip to Tupelo.
In light of finishing 11-15 overall, the Lady Tigers compiled a 9-7 record in conference play, which is good enough for a No. 3 seed from the East Division. The first round begins on Thursday for West Alabama as it faces conference power Arkansas Tech. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the radio broadcast will be available on Oldies 106.5 and via the internet (www.uwa.edu/athletics).
The Golden Suns bring a 20-6 overall record (13-3 in the GSC) into Thursday's game. Tech is led by junior guard Ginny Shaw and post player Angie Harris, each of whom average 15.0 points per contest. Mindy Crane pours in 10.4 points per night, and rounds out one of the most formidable backcourts in all of the GSC.
As a team, Tech relies on a stingy defense that has held opponents to just over 52 points per contest and 38 percent from the field.
The Lady Tigers rely on the physical post play of forward Jamie Bender and the sharp shooting of guards Kim Cooper and Michelle Sharpe. In her senior campaign, Bender is scoring almost 15 points per game and grabbing 8.7 boards on a nightly basis. She has compiled nine double-doubles and earned an All-South Region nomination.
After a slow start, Cooper has elevated her game on both ends of the court, and is scoring 11.3 points per contest. The Lady Tigers best driving threat has earned 98 trips to the free-throw line, and connected on 82 percent of them, which is tops on the team. Sharpe, the sophomore floor general, has the ball-handling responsibilities for the Lady Tigers, and doubles as a deadly 3-point shooter. She has connected on an impressive 49 percent of her shots from behind the arc, and pours in 10.7 points per night.
Defensively, West Alabama depends on the same kind of smothering defense its counterpart. UWA forces more than 17 turnovers per game, while holding opponents to 38 percent from the field.
If UWA is to make a run at a conference championship, it will have to take care of the basketball. The young Lady Tigers have been guilty more than 23 turnovers per game, and must find a way to minimize the mistakes.
On paper, the two teams could not match up much better. Both teams have a great-shooting backcourt and a dominant post player who can take over. The victorious team looks to be the one guilty of the fewest mistakes and the one who can stay out of foul trouble.
Last season, the Tigers drew national powerhouse Delta State in the tournament opener.