The Rowan women’s basketball team kicked off their season last weekend, where they went 0-2 in the Amherst Tip-Off Tournament.
Although the Profs have not started off with the record they would like, they are playing some of the toughest opponents in Division III basketball. Rowan is looking to finish better than last season, where they went 17-9 and lost in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) semifinals.
Head Coach Demetrius Poles understands that winning is important, but he knows that his team can compete at a higher level in order to be ready for the competition that they will be facing in the conference and during the postseason.
“Of course you want to win, but you’re playing against NCAA-experienced programs,” Coach Poles said. “You want to put your team in that environment because we want to be at that level someday.”
In the first game, the Profs lost 58-53 against Springfield College. The teams were neck-and-neck in the first quarter, while Rowan only scored four points in the second quarter. The Profs bounced back with 20 in the third quarter, but it was not enough to mount the comeback, as they lost by five.
“We competed, we gave ourselves a chance to win against Springfield,” Coach Poles said. “We let it slip away with mistakes, communications, on defense and some sloppy play on offense, struggling to score.”
In the second game against Amherst College, Rowan was down 32-20 at the half. Even with a strong second half, it was not enough to get the job done.
“We have to figure out how we can make things easier for us,” Coach Poles said. “Things are easier when we score off of our defense, when we make layups and get steals, and then hopefully we can start hitting some threes. In the first game we hit seven threes, second game we only hit one, so shooting percentages weren’t that great, we just got to get in the gym and shoot.”
Last season Rowan shot 38.3% from the field and 25.2% from three. So far, in two games the Profs are shooting 28.6% from the field and 20.5% from beyond the arc.
Nicole Mallard, who had 16 points between the two matchups, described what she saw from the opening games.
“There were certain points that with our press we got them to turn the ball over, there was lead changes and everyone had a lot of energy,” Mallard said. “We executed a bit, there’s still some struggle with finding out who works with who well, since we have so many new people, there’s a bunch of people who haven’t played together yet.”
This season there are 20 players on the roster, nine of them who were not with the team last season. Although Coach Poles knows there is talent within the lineup, the team still has to find their stride in playing with each other on the court.
“We’ve got one of the toughest schedules in the country, and I did it on purpose and then we’re going to have a rough NJAC ride, there’s going to be some good competition and we’ve got to be together,” Coach Poles said. “I think we’ve got a very deep bench, any five can be dangerous, we have a lot of players, we have 20 players, but we rotate and any five can be good.”
“It is pretty difficult because there is so much talent. It can be difficult to know where the new players are on the court, what’s their strongest assets so we can allow them to perform best in the games,” Mallard added. “But it’s been fun, chemistry is getting there on and off the court.”
With the new additions on the squad, Coach Poles believes that the team has gotten stronger and can understand the winning mentality of the program.
“We’re a lot bigger, we’re faster, with Danielle McCurdy we have size, with Ayanna [Johnson] coming back we have size, and we got some quick guards who can give us some speed, and we got a freshman who can really shoot,” Coach Poles said. “We have a lot of size and skill, we just need to work on our skill as a cohesive unit and do it together.”
The Profs are looking to get back to an NJAC Championship, in which they were able to win in the 2019-20 season and make it back to the NCAA tournament. It starts with their first conference game, which will be played in Galloway on Tuesday, Nov. 22, against Stockton.
“We like to win here,” Coach Poles said. “We’ve been winning, we’re not going to stop winning, but we want to win the big one, the object is to win a National Championship, so that’s why we play against the best in the country.”
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