Southern women’s basketball coach Carlos Funchess doesn’t recall the Jaguars ever having a schedule that has kept his team away from the F.G. Clark Activity Center this long.
Now in his second year as head coach after spending the previous 13 as an assistant, Funchess is helping his team navigate a nine-game gap between home dates that has taken the Jaguars to the Midwest and into New York. The road trip continues this weekend with Southern set to play two games at the 20th annual Holiday Classic hosted by the University of Miami.
Southern (2-7) lost 72-59 at Oklahoma State on Wednesday, then headed to Miami afterward. First up, the Jaguars play Washington State (6-4) at noon Friday, followed by a game with UNC Asheville (5-2) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be in the Watsco Center on the Miami campus.
“The schedule fell this way partly because of finals,” Funchess said, referring to the 18-day break the team had between its Nov. 24 visit to Texas and a Dec. 12 game at Rutgers.
“It's been kind of crazy.”
The main goal has been to build chemistry and have Southern ready to go when Southwestern Athletic Conference play begins. The Jaguars open SWAC play with games at Texas Southern on Jan. 4 and at Prairie View on Jan. 6.
“We’ve shown we can be a really good team in spurts, but we have to put 40 minutes together,” Funchess said. “We’ve (had) some kids miss games with injuries, so we’re trying to get some chemistry more than anything.”
Junior Kayla Watson missed six weeks with a foot injury, and freshman Genovea Johnson was sidelined for three weeks by shin splints. Junior Caitlin Davis, the team’s starting point guard, sat out a week with an ankle injury, but everyone is expected to be healthy for the beginning of conference play.
“We’re just trying to jell and find out who compliments who the best,” Funchess said.
Against Oklahoma State, the Jaguars had to deal with the Cowgirls’ 6-foot-4 center, Natasha Mack, who scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Southern was led by Jaden Towner’s 15 points and got strong efforts by Amani Mcwaid (11 points, four rebounds) and Caitlin Davis (nine points, five assists).
Southern forced 21 turnovers but was outrebounded 51-34 by the taller Cowgirls.
Scaling heights will be a primary task against Washington State and UNC Asheville.
The Cougars boast a front line of 6-foot-5 Bella Murekatete (5.7 points, 4.5 rebounds), 6-4 Jovana Subasic (9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds) and 6-0 Borislava Hristova (19.3 points, 6.6 rebounds). They can also bring 6-3 Emma Nankervis off the bench.
UNC Asheville has 6-2 center Evonna McGill, and forwards Skye Green (6-1), Juliet Esadah (6-0) and Brooke Jordan-Brown (6-1).
“Both of those teams have a lot of size,” Funchess said. “That will always pose problems. We have a 6-3 (Ceundra McGhee) and a 6-1 (Raven White), but we don’t have a lot size like they do. We’ll have to use our quickness and speed.”