THURSDAY, MARCH 08, 2007
INSIDER: JUDolphins.com breaks down the women's basketball season

March 8, 2007

DOTHAN, Ala. -

Joel Lamp and Josh Ellis take an inside look at the JU women's basketball team's record setting season while breaking down the A-Sun Tournament. Here's a look at our e-mails that we traded this week leading up to Thursday's game.

JOEL LAMP: The women's basketball team put together a record setting campaign and this is easily the best team in school history. Putting up 20 wins, that's amazing -- especially when the program record was 13 before that. We all knew this team was capable of doing some big things, but did you see it happening this soon?

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JOSH ELLIS: You know Joel, I new this team was going to be a lot better but I never thought things would click so soon because we are such a young team (2 seniors, 1 junior, 4 sophomores, 5 freshmen). After watching this core of youngsters last year, I thought we needed some added punch from this year's freshmen class. What ended up happening was the sophomores matured and improved tremendously and the freshmen found ways to contribute as role players. You knew Ashley Williams would be the focal point but the sophomores (Regina Omoite, DaVina Hamilton and Virginia Gregoire) have taken it to a new level this year.

When we watched this team a year ago, we knew it was going to be fun to watch them develop together...and it has. Think about this, other than the five freshmen, this group has spent two years together and knows the ins-and-outs of playing with each other. You add the five freshmen to the mix and you've got a team that has depth, talent and just needs some experience -- which it has received this season.

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JOEL LAMP: What is really amazing is the fact that JU had two players named first team all-conference -- clearly a sign of respect from the rest of the teams in the league as to how talented this team is.

And that's the thing -- with the graduation of Sheena Carpenter, there was that scoring void that needed to be filled and everyone on the team has stepped up to do that, not just one person, don't you think?

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JOSH ELLIS: This goes back to my point about the development of the sophomores. Coach Dunn and I spoke before last season when Regina, Virginia and DaVina were coming in as freshmen. As a coach, you want to bring your young players along slowly but due to unforeseen circumstances, they were all forced to play a lot of minutes and got thrown in the fire. Because of that, you are seeing the team blossom quicker than normal. This team is weathered, they have competed against big programs like South Carolina, Georgia Tech and USF and they have developed a cohesiveness that is obvious from the first tip.

In replacing a special player like Sheena Carpenter, all three sophomores stepped up their games this year. The one who stands out the most is DaVina Hamilton. Last year, she never looked for her shot because she played behind Sheena. Virginia and Regina played a lot of minutes and took their fair share of shots, but I think DaVina has grown the most in terms of last year. She has finally accepted the fact that she is a scorer and takes that mentality to the floor. Regina has also improved her assist-to-turnover ratio in the last month and has become the floor general the coaching staff has envisioned. Virginia has so much raw talent that it's almost scary.

The best part is, this team will continue to grow and next year we have bigger bodies to put in the post and improve our depth. This think this is the beginning of a long run at the top of the A-Sun for JU women's basketball.

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JOEL LAMP: I agree with you...this team is loaded for the next couple of years, especially with the younger players getting better as they gain experience.

Now, let's look at the tournament. A tough draw with Stetson in the first round, a very physical team who is capable of beating anyone in the league when they are on. And it only gets tougher from there, with either ETSU or Lipscomb. We split with both of those teams this year -- losing on the road and winning at home -- so that presents a testy matchup.

Then, if we're lucky enough to make it to the final, you've got either Belmont, Mercer, Gardner-Webb or Campbell -- and each one presents some interesting matchups. Belmont has the talented Alysha Clark...Mercer has found a way to win of late and is playing with renewed confidence...Gardner-Webb beat us at their place and Campbell has some talented post players that can bang inside.

What are your thoughts on the tournament?

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JOSH ELLIS: My first thought....which team is going to show up? The Women's A-Sun Tournament has proven every year that anyone can win it at any time. Belmont has been the No. 1 seed the past two years and has not gotten past the second round, including a first game oust in 2005. Last year, Florida Atlantic came out of nowhere to win it. I don't think there are any games that are an easy one for the Dolphins and the fact that the games are played in the Dothan Arena gives no one an advantage. The biggest thing is the times in which these games are played and how many games are played in a matter of days.

The game times on Thursday at 1 p.m. (Belmont vs. Mercer), 3:30 p.m. (JU vs. Stetson), 6 p.m. (ETSU vs. Lipscomb) and 8:30 p.m. (Gardner-Webb vs. Campbell). Then you have to turn around and play at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Saturday before playing the championship game at 1 p.m. on Sunday. I have to think the Dolphins have the advantage for the weekend because we play a high-tempo style for 40 minutes and we need to be the best conditioned team to play that way.

To be honest, the Stetson match-up scares me a little bit because they do have tremendous post players in Janene Maclin and Ayesha Barkley. Sharnesha Smith is another talented player, who we actually were recruiting to play here. If we can play our game and be consistent offensively, we should do fine against the Lady Hatters. Remember, they gave us everything we could handle at their place last week (leading us by 17 points in the first half) but we found a way to win.

I think another key for the Dolphins will be the ability to find a way to win. Even if Ashley Williams and the sophomore trio don't get their points, we have role players like freshman Courtney Jackson and Danielle Gray who come up with a big game.

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JOEL LAMP: Josh, thanks for taking some time out of your busy week prepping for the tournament to chat with me. All of us here at JUDolphins.com wish the women's team the best of luck during their stay in Dothan.