Tonight marks the season debut of the Racers against Evansville. With many practices under its belt to determine the team chemistry and style of play, Head Coach Rob Cross said he is confident in the team.
“This is a great week to be a Racer,” Cross said. “We’re looking forward to playing somebody else and to put our hard work on the court.”
Overall, Cross said his main concerns are keeping a healthy team full of energy. There are currently only two injured players on the roster: forwards Jessica Winfrey and Jessica Holder.
Evansville is recognized as a formidable opponent this season, he said.
“We’re facing an Evansville team coming here with a lot of talent,” he said. “They’ve got a great coaching staff, really high levels of energy and they had a blowout in their exhibition game.”
Murray State is 1-2 in its last three games against Evansville. Though only playing one game so far, Evansville gained an impressive win against Oakland City with a final score of 82-42.
Though the starting lineup is undetermined, Cross said he appreciates the leadership qualities of senior guard Mallory Schwab and is considering putting her on the starting lineup. Schwab is a dynamic player who is first on the team for blocks, racking up 17 last season. Schwab also averages more than 20 minutes of playing time every game, making her a player to watch.
Through the most recent practices, the team has made large improvements in the defense, Cross said.
“We’re playing with a lot of energy,” he said. “Like sprinting back when the ball gets to you on the inside, getting to the help line, and stamina are the types of positions that will help your teammates out to be a better defensive team.”
The team has good ball shooting capabilities on the offense, but Cross said his main concern is whether or not the success in practice will carry over to the performance on the court during games.
“I see them shoot the ball well at practice, but what really matters is what you actually do in the game,” he said. “Right now I can tell you that we’re shooting the ball well at practice, but I can’t tell you how that is going to translate into the game.”
Cross has confidence in the girls, he said, but what really matters is if they have confidence in their own performance.
“The truth is going to be told tonight whether they produce with the loose energy they have in the gym, or if they’re going to have stage fright,” he said. “If that’s the case, then we’re not going to be very successful.”
From a statistical standpoint, he said he wants to see the girls rebound more.
“I think we are overall a better rebounding team,” he said. “But when you lose those double digit rebound statistics it becomes a concern.”
Teamwork is an important factor in the game and the girls seem to have a good team atmosphere on and off the court, Cross said.
“It’s been outstanding in the gym,” he said. “Last year’s team chemistry was OK, but it’s been phenomenal this year. They’re all excited and it translates into the style they play in. Everybody feels like they’re going to contribute. Hopefully those things don’t change when we play this Friday.”
He said the girls recognize the team is much more important than the individual which will help in terms of ball passing and overall offense.
Tipoff is set for 5:15 tonight in the CFSB Center.