Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Women's Report: Peahens Need More Help

Here's the latest in the "10 Teams in 10 Days" series looking at MAAC women's programs.

Up now ...

SAINT PETER'S (7-11 in MAAC play in 2009-10, 11-19 overall)

RECAP: Not the best of seasons from a program that, a little more than a decade ago, was as dominant in the conference as Marist is now. The Peahens have had just one above .500 overall record since the 2001-02 season (19-12 in 2007-2008), and weren't close to that this past season. They played a gritty, hard-nosed style and pounded the boards (their 5.1 rebound-per-game edge over opponents topped the MAAC), and the offensive rebound was often their best offense. But, there just wasn't enough offense. A 54.2 point-per-game average was second from the bottom of MAAC teams. There weren't even a lot of close calls. Saint Peter's lost eight of its 11 conference games by double figures, and never managed to win more than two straight games. Its eighth-place regular-season finish was a far cry from the glory days of this program that still holds a 330-153 won-loss record against MAAC opponents. And, then, it dropped its first-round tournament game with a 67-57 setback against Canisius.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The emergence of a strong inside game. Sophomore 6-2 center Quiana Parker averaged 6.6 rebounds per game and became more of a force as the season progressed. She averaged 6.7 points and 10.2 rebounds over the season's last nine games. She and junior Charlene Riddick (9.1 points, 6.5 rebounds per contest), a 6-0 forward, should combine for one of the conference's better front-court duos next season. Senior guard Natasha Morris (12.2 points, 3.5 rebounds) had a nice season and was a third-team all-MAAC selection. Few teams played harder on a nightly basis, and opponents knew they were going to get banged around physically by the Peahens. That intense style of play, particularly a dedication to rebounding, probably lifted the team to a better record than its talent level indicated.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Start with 600 turnovers, exactly 20 per game and far too many to win on most nights. Only last-place Rider (20.3 TOs per contest) had more. The Peahens didn't share the ball well, either. Their 9.4 assist-per-game average was the worst of all conference teams. Sophomore small forward Jynae Judson averaged 11.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, but had an abysmal 160 turnovers against a team-high 74 assists. Judson did average 13.3 points in the team's last three games, but her offense work was more than negated by her turnover proclivity. Judson was the team's primary ball-handler because the Peahens didn't have a true point guard, and won't solve their turnover problems without finding one. That it wasn't close in almost all of its conference losses wasn't a good sign. In truth, there just wasn't a lot of talent here this past season and the team's record indicated that it played above its means.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Two starters (Morris and Alena Ali) are gone, and there don't appear to be any replacements on what was an 11-player roster this past season ready to emerge. Unless the program brings in a ball-handler, Judson will likely handle much of that duty again and she'll need to cut her turnover totals in half, a tall order. Porter and Riddick provide some optimism, along with Adenike Oyesila, a capable 6-0 reserve this past season. Any success next season will have to come from overpowering opponents inside and pounding the boards, which is the one thing the team was good at this past season. Still, the glory days of a 15-3 conference record and a 25-6 overall mark from the 2001-02 season, the last time the program was dominant, are distant memories and don't appear to be on the immediate horizon.

PREDICTION FOR 2010-11: If the Peahens continue to play with the enthusiasm and intensity of this past season, they won't be abysmal. Still, there are no recruits reported yet (although they might be forthcoming). Without at least a couple impact players joining the program, the upcoming season might not even approach last season's results. It should be interesting to see the progress of the front court players, particularly Porter. But, a finish near the bottom of the standings is the likely result.

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