Between not having to travel, knowing the gym and the fan support, there isn’t anywhere else UWG coach Scott Groninger wants his team playing right now.
“It’s just good to be off the road. No offense to Valdosta, Georgia, or Pensacola, Florida, but we’d much rather be in Carrollton, Georgia. We’re hoping we can have a good turnout. We’ve been really pleased with the support we’ve got this year. Hopefully, we can continue that,” Groninger said.
The Wolves (14-8, 8-6 Gulf South Conference) are coming off a 14-point win at West Florida on Saturday, but at this point of the season it’s not about what has been done in the past, it’s all about the next game.
“We’re trying to maintain the same posture we’ve had all year. The game you’re playing is the most important. It was great to win on Saturday because that’s what we want to do — win as many games as possible — but that doesn’t really have any impact on what we’re doing [tonight],” Groninger said.
JaDechia Hill has been a big part of that success with 14 points of her own in the win at UWF, as her scoring average is just below nine points a game this season and rebounds are sitting at 7.1 per game. Her play is just part of what has helped UWG into the third spot — of tournament-eligible teams — in the conference.
“For our team to be successful, the whole theory is that everybody does their thing and we’re not relying on one person. We’re relying on our team to do things right. JaDechia’s done a good job for us all year. It’s a tough injury she came off of, the Achilles tendon the year before and not really getting a lot of experience playing time-wise at Jacksonville State. What she’s done has been remarkable in her first year here,” Groninger said. “She’s getting better, our team is getting better being able to use all the options we have.”
While the Lady Bucs’ record might not be the best — they are currently next-to-last in the league — they are coming off a big win and are always a danger. Breanna Ridgell leads CBU (6-16, 3-11) in scoring at 13.9 points per game, while Samantha Reeves also averages double figures at 11.7.
“It’s going to be a battle. I think they’ve got, arguably, the best freshman in the conference in Samantha Reeves. They’ve played us tough. We were fortunate to get out of there with a three-point win. They’re coming off a great win, they beat Shorter and they beat them by eight. This is also a team that went down to Valdosta State and won, something we haven’t done. You can expect a real tight game [today],” Groninger said.
The West Georgia men are just trying to get something going with four games left in the regular season, but the task won’t be easy, as the Wolves (7-15, 4-10) return to The Coliseum tonight to take on Christian Brothers at 7:30 p.m.
It was the trip up to Memphis that got the current nine-game losing streak started, with the last win coming on Jan. 12 at home against West Florida, the team they lost to for No. 9 on Saturday.
“It was a real competitive game up there. I think we were tied with about five minutes to go and [Christian Brothers] got us at the end,” UWG coach Michael Cooney said.
West Georgia struggled in the first half and was down 41-29 at the break before a second-half comeback attempt fell short. A 50-point second half wasn’t enough, as the Wolves dropped the nine-point game. Cooney believes the past two games, even in losses, have been the start of a possible turnaround.
“Both games. The Valdosta State game was probably the best game we played in the last couple of weeks. First half, we out-played them and the second half I would say was pretty close. They had about a three, four-minute run at the beginning of the second half that really was the difference in the game,” Cooney said. “The West Florida game our guys were just not going to give in and refused to quit. West Florida was ahead by about 10, but the lead was never safe. We kept playing and forcing turnovers and, again, in that game we had some great opportunities in the last couple of minutes.”
On the other side, the Buccaneers (15-7, 10-4) are coming off a pair of impressive wins, knocking off No. 7 Alabama-Huntsville and Shorter in the past two games and have won seven of their last nine. Led by senior Michael Drake’s 14 points per game, CBU has four scorers averaging double figures this season.
“They’re playing well right now. It’s going to be a real deliberate, tough, hard game. They’re smart and very methodical. We’ve got to do a good job defending them, but the big issue for us is can we score enough points. That’s the key,” Cooney said. “They shoot the ball real well, pretty balanced team ... They’re a handful to defend.”