There was a lot of hope coming into the Canada West women’s basketball season that things would turn around for the Brandon University Bobcats.
Novell Thomas took over as head coach and brought in a few young players to help the Bobcats improve. Things looked promising early on, but Brandon ended the first semester with a conference recordof 0-10 that extended their losing stread to 55 games. It’s with them that we wrap up the midterm reports.
FRESH BLOOD: As soon as Thomas was hired, he immediately went looking for players who could make an impact with the team and improve their ball-handling ability. He brought in five players, although 5-foot-7 guard Brittany Boudreau is not on the active roster due to a knee injury.
While the addition of 5-foot-8 guard Carrera Lamoureux, a transfer from Canadian Mennonite University, has improved the Bobcats’ ability to move the ball up the court, none of the other players have made a huge impact. The other recruits — Maegan MacKay, Ambrea McDonald-Okoro and Elsa Langill — are all in their first year of university and are developing along with the eight returnees.
TURNOVERS: Lamoureux and a much-improved Stephanie Haynes have the Bobcats looking more confident moving the ball up the court this season, but they still have trouble with turnovers.
As a team, Brandon has turned the ball over a conference-high 288 times and have a league-worst -12.60 turnover ratio. Those turnovers are putting the Bobcats in bad defensive positions and limiting the number of times they can get into their half-court offence, which is why Brandon is averaging a league-low 41.3 points per game.
The turnover problem is the biggest thing bothering Thomas during the break, and he believes there’s plenty of blame to go around.
"I think I just have to go over situations more in practice to make sure our players can make the right reads and give them the tools to be able to make those correct reads in pressure or situations where they’re being forced to play at a speed they may not want to play at," he said. "Part of it’s on us and part of it’s on the players to recognize what we’ve done in practice or reviewed on game tape and avoid those situations because they lead to turnovers."
BUILDING BLOCKS: The massive number of turnovers has overshadowed a few positives the team hopes to build on during the second half of the season.
The Bobcats came very close to their first win in over two seasons, but ultimately fell to the host Manitoba Bisons in overtime on Nov. 9. Thomas feels the players are grasping his complex offensive system, although sometimes they need to be reminded of certain options on the court. Lamoureux is also eighth in the conference with an 82.1 free throw percentage.
It’s the team’s play on defence that has been most impressive. Fourth-year forward Jaynell Gillett is tied for 12th in the conference with 0.6 blocks per game and second-year forward Aimee Johnston is right behind at 0.5 per game. Johnston is also tied for 15th in Canada West with 4.7 defensive rebounds per game and leads the team with 8.2 points per contest. Brandon is the fourth-best defensive rebounding team in Canada West, averaging 27.8 defensive boards per game.
"We’re very confident, or more confident, playing defensively," Thomas said. "Aside from our last game against Trinity, I’ve felt our effort has been there defensively. That’s something that you either do or you don’t. … The shots come and go, but effort should always be there regardless and I think that’s left a sour taste in my mouth that, from an effort standpoint, we’re not giving it our all."
OUTLOOK: The Bobcats’ best chances to win a game this season have passed. Of their final 12 games, seven are against teams currently ranked in the CIS top 10. The Mount Royal Cougars (2-8) and the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves (3-7) are the only teams with losing records left on the Bobcats’ schedule. Brandon will host them at the Healthy Living Centre on Jan. 11 and 12, respectively.
While the players would like to ditch the losing feeling, Thomas knows it’s more important to focus on improving little by little for the rest of the season.
"Wins and losses are outcomes and we can’t control outcomes," he said. "We can control the process portion of it. By that, I want us to compete. We’re going to have four of the top 10 teams in the country and UVic is hovering around there. I just want us to go in and compete with confidence and battle and play with pride because I don’t think we’ve done that consistently."