Focused ambition

Women's basketball team look to remain unfazed while being first in the east division

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No one on the Bulls will refer to their play as good, despite currently holding first place in the Mid-American Conference East division. Even after a win, the team is always looking to reflect on their faults and look for ways to improve.

The team had a strong start going 9-2 in non-conference and followed it up going 8-2 in conference. The Bulls (17-4, 8-2 MAC) do not rest on their current mid-season accomplishments. Instead the players wait until they are MAC champions, always keeping their sights on it from the start of the season.

“I think it is hard for all of us to celebrate because we all have such big goals this season and know the hard work that is needed to get there,” junior guard Cierra Dillard said. “I am never satisfied with my performance. We are always on to the next game looking straight ahead which helps keep us playing our best and stops us from getting ahead of ourselves.”

The Bulls have been adamant this entire season about playing with a team mentality. On Saturday, the Bulls defeated the Toledo Rockets (15-8, 6-5 MAC) 84-73. Sophomore forward Summer Hemphill had a double-double in the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds. She has turned into a consistent scorer, shooting below 50 percent once this season.

“We enjoy winning and are happy that we do, but that’s not why I play basketball,” Hemphill said. “I play for my team, I play for my family, I play because we all want to succeed and win the MAC championship together.”

Junior guard Cierra Dillard had 18 points in Saturday’s game and also credited her performance to the team.

The win over the Rockets marked the team’s twelfth double-digit margin of victory this season. Saturday’s win was one of the Bulls’ most impressive as the Rockets had entered the game on a three-game winning streak.

“You know we are a tough MAC team too,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “I look out on the court and see so many players who can have big games from Cassie [Oursler] putting up big numbers, Summer [Hemphill] scoring and attacking the boards, Cierra going off scoring.”

Now with the team looking at its final eight regular season games, they keep mentality where it has been all season, to be MAC champions. The Bulls have only four freshman and sophomore players and Legette-Jack credits the team’s experience for much of their success.

“We have been building this team up for the past six years,” Legette-Jack said. “Now this team has been put together and we are seeing a lot of exciting basketball and a chance to watch these women grow.”

Legette-Jack is hoping to get the team playing the same fast-paced style it was playing at the beginning of the year. The style included the Bulls taking long distant court passes to create transition points and a focus on creating more turnovers. She finds that the team has become more selective with its shots and is hoping to get the players out of that habit despite the recent success.

With the MAC tournament 28 days away, the Bulls plan to improve upon areas they still find holes in despite the recent strong play.

The Bulls have a home game on Wednesday against the Kent State Golden Flashes (11-12, 4-7 MAC). The Golden Flashes are coming off a loss to the Northern Illinois Huskies (11-11, 3-8 MAC) this past Saturday.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com