Nov. 13, 2008
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After a much anticipated preseason, which saw the Commodores picked to win the Southeastern Conference and two exciting exhibition games, the women's basketball team will open regular season play against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 7 p.m. CT on Friday, Nov. 14, in Memorial Gymnasium.
The Islanders travel to Nashville with four returning starters from last year's squad, which finished 12-20 overall and 7-9 in conference, including preseason first-team All-Southland Conference Elisa Beagle. The 6-0 senior center averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year. She also ranks as the second-leading rebounder (642) in Islander history and is seventh all-time in points scored (806).
Deziree Green, Shaye Montgomery and Adrienne Scott comprise the remaining returning starters, and will likely join Beagle at tip-off. Green, a 5-10 junior guard, averaged 9.3 points, second-best on the team, and 5.0 rebounds per game. Montgomery, a 5-6 junior guard, netted 8.6 points and 3.7 boards, also leading the team in assists with 123 total (3.8 per game). Scott, a 6-1 sophomore forward, started every game of her first season, totaling 5.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest.
The Commodores will meet the Islanders' experience with five, veteran returning starters of their own - junior Merideth Marsh, sophomores Jence Rhoads and Hannah Tuomi, and seniors Jennifer Risper and Christina Wirth.
"We've been working on a lot of ball pressure and just being in the right spots on defense, and the whole idea of trusting each other, like help-sides and stuff like that," Marsh remarked. "Those are a few things that we've been working on and really keying in on, so we'll probably carry that over into the game."
Wirth and Risper will certainly anchor the 'Dore attack Friday and throughout the season. Wirth, a preseason All-SEC First-Team selection, averaged 20 points in VU's two exhibition games. She made 13-of-23 field goal attempts, including 4-of-9 three-pointers, and had 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and one steal in 61 minutes of action.
Risper also played well against Tusculum College and Love & Basketball, averaging five points, six rebounds, 5.5 assists and 5.5 steals in a total of 50 minutes.
"Each practice game just lets us get a feel for each other and all the stuff we've done in practice offensively and defensively," said Marsh. "In practice, you get to play with everybody, but in the games the coaches set the people who you're going to play with.
"So, it's a neat thing to get you ready for the season, and see who you work well with."
Freshman Tia Gibbs also played well during the exhibition games, scoring 31 points. Gibbs hit three three-pointers in the first 14 minutes of her career, and nailed another three treys in her second contest.
"I'm not so nervous any more," Gibbs stated. "The first two exhibition games really helped. Those were real games to me, so I feel like this is just another one."
The Commodores will head to Bowling Green, Ky., after their tilt with TAMUCC for a 2 p.m. match against Western Kentucky at E. A. Diddle Arena on Sunday, Nov. 16. The game will represent a homecoming, of sorts, for Marsh and Gibbs, both Louisville natives.
"I enjoy playing Western Kentucky because it's close enough to home that a bunch of family and friends can come and watch," Marsh noted. "And I know a lot of people who go to Western and the coaching staff. So, of course, it's fun to play in your home state."
"Pretty much my whole family will be there," Gibbs added, "and I haven't really gotten to see them since the summer. So, I can't wait for that game."
Coach Melanie Balcomb's team has defeated the Hilltoppers in three consecutive contests, and gone 1-1 in Bowling Green in its last two trips. The 'Dores won 75-54 in Nashville last season, and 86-78 at Diddle the previous season, Marsh's freshman year.
"I've always loved playing in Diddle Arena," said Marsh. "It's just one of those places, growing up in Kentucky, where you watch a lot of games and it's just a fun place to play."
"I love Western's gym," Gibbs echoed. "They say it's one of the hardest gyms to play in, but I'm excited."
The freshman from Louisville will also lace-up against former opponents from her earlier career. Gibbs has played against WKU sophomores Arnika Brown, from Hopkinsville, Ky., and Hope Brown, from Radcliff, Ky.
"It'll be good to play against some Kentucky faces again," she noted.