Lady Eagles Face Catawba in SAC Opener on Saturday
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.— They've been tested against some of the best teams in the country over the first month of the season, but Saturday night old rivalries will be renewed as South Atlantic Conference play opens for the Carson-Newman women's basketball team.
The 3-3 Lady Eagles travel to Catawba, S.C. to take on the 4-4 Lady Indians in the SAC opener for both teams. Tipoff is 5 p.m.
For C-N women's head coach Dean Walsh, it's a welcome test for a team that he feels has been underperforming over its first six games.
"We're going to have to play a lot better," Walsh said. "Defensively we're better than last year but we've had some breakdowns on shooters."
The Lady Indians have four players averaging double digits per game. Junior 5-foot-9 center Dana Hicks averages a double-double a game, with 10.9 rebounds and 19.9 points. Senior guard Kisha Long averages over 15 points a game.
Carson-Newman can match up with Catawba, but needs a little medical help to do so. Illnesses have limited key players. Senior guard Kaitlin Moore (Fort Mill, S.C.) and sophomore guard Candis Clear (Memphis, Tenn.) have both been battling sicknesses.
"Catawba has given us fits out there," Walsh said. "They run an open post, dribble drive with an all-conference post player. We've got to get healthy. It's hard to keep our intensity and run like you want to when you've got people sick. Hopefully we can get healthy before Saturday and do what we want to do."
Luckily for the Lady Eagles, freshman forward Shannon Depew (Newport, Tenn.) has emerged as a threat on both ends of the court. Depew had a break out game against Maryville College Wednesday night, recording her first double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds along with five blocks. Still, Depew hasn't arrived yet and has some aspects of her game that need honing.
"I'm pleased but I'm not happy with her (Depew's) free throw shooting and turnovers," Walsh said. "But she protected the basket well, she rebounded well and she shot it well."
Senior guard Mandy Mendenhall (Kingston Springs, Tenn.) remains the team's leading scorer averaging more than 12 points per game. Mendenhall is currently the only Lady Eagle in averaging double figures in scoring, though Walsh feels her best games are ahead.
"We need more consistency out of Mandy for us to have success," Walsh said. "Offensively we are three cylinders shy of a full go. It's little break downs, but they can hurt you when your offense isn't clicking."
It won't get any easier for the Lady Eagles in the coming weeks. No. 2-ranked Lander University comes to Holt Fieldhouse on Monday, Dec. 8. The Lady Eagles have already lost to Lander 68-52 in the Southeast Regional Challenge on Nov. 14. Carson-Newman dropped a 76-46 game to No. 1-ranked Delta State on Nov. 19. The loss that hurts Walsh the most so far has been their opening game against USC Aiken in the Lady Bearcats Tipoff Classic.
"I feel like we should be 4-2 right now," Walsh said. "We've got to do a better job of negating second chance points and creating turnovers."
Carson-Newman plays at King Dec. 11 and then face off against their second SAC opponent when they host Wingate on Dec. 15.