When guard Randi Brown’s 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left lifted the UNO women’s basketball team over Stephen F. Austin on Jan. 14, pushing the Privateers to 2-2 in the Southland Conference, it may not have seemed like much.
However, that was the first time a Privateers team had been .500 in conference since Feb. 22, 2009, when that team was 8-8 on the way to an 8-10 record.
UNO (5-9, 2-3), which fell to Houston Baptist on Saturday, has a chance to get to the break-even mark again when it hosts Central Arkansas on Thursday at Lakefront Arena.
It’ll be a challenge. Central Arkansas (14-2, 4-1), third in the conference standings, has a deep team led by guard Maggie Proffitt (14.3 points per game) and forward Raquel Logan, who is third in the SLC in rebounding (8.2).
“They are a well-coached team that does all the little things right,” said Keyshawn Carter-Davenport, a former UNO player in her fifth year as head coach. “They make their cuts hard, they set screens hard, and they come off screens with a purpose, ready to shoot the ball and score.
“We’ll have to be disciplined on both ends and execute our offense well, and we can’t give them second shots.”
A bruising battle under the boards appears to be shaping up. Central Arkansas leads the Southland in rebounding, and UNO is second. The Privateers lead the conference in offensive rebounds but oddly are seventh in defensive rebounds.
And UNO will be without 6-foot-2 senior center Matilda Fogelstrom, who came out of Saturday’s game with a sprained ankle. Fogelstrom had given the Privateers a boost with her defense, presence and ability to score low since becoming a starter four games ago, Carter-Davenport said.
However, UNO has post depth, and Halie Matthews, 6 feet, will return as starter.
The Privateers’ record also may not seem like much. However, a program devastated by Hurricane Katrina and uncertainty concerning whether it will remain in NCAA Division I is making progress, Carter-Davenport said.
Winning just three games in her first three seasons, UNO was 8-19 last season and finished 6-12 in the Southland after winning five of its final six games. It missed making the conference tournament because of a tiebreaker.
“Our focus is Katy, Texas, this season,” said Carter-Davenport, referring to the site of the Southland tournament. “We don’t want to be in the position of needing teams to lose to get in this time. So we want to take care of our own business.”
That’s why January is important. UNO has six conference home games this month. There is one in February and two in March before the season ends March 5. And with Incarnate Word and conference leader Abilene Christian ineligible for postseason play, the Privateers need to finish no lower than eighth among 11 teams to get into the tournament.
Progress is evident in the Privateers being eighth in defensive field-goal percentage and seventh in assists instead of being near the bottom of the conference stats. And Brown, last year’s conference freshman of the year, is second in scoring at 16.6 points per game.
“Obviously, we’re not there yet, but we are more competitive,” Carter-Davenport said. “Our stats show that we are good in transition but not in the half court, so we have to play with intensity for 40 minutes. But we’ve made steps.”