Struggling Lady Trojans prepare to face Belmont

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 4, 2002

Sports Editor

For a lower tier Division I-A women’s basketball program, there are pros and cons to playing upper level teams like Alabama, Auburn and Cincinnati.

Pro: Your players get to experience the excitement of playing against the SEC, or any other high profile conference.

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Con: Your team may get run in the process.

Pro: You get payed a hefty sum to visit one of those team’s arena and play the sacrificial lamb.

Con: One of your players may quit in the middle of a four game losing streak, due to lack of confidence.

Such is the case that head coach Jerry Hester and the Troy State Lady Trojans find themselves in. After suffering two opening season losses to Alabama and Chattanooga, TSU reeled off three straight, including two conference victories.

But then came the Cincinnati Bearcat Invitational, where TSU fell victim to the unbeaten Bearcats, 92-49. The Lady Trojans bounced back to keep it close in losses to East Tennessee State and Louisiana Monroe, but sandwiched between those two games was an 86-44 loss to No. 20 Auburn.

Hester is blunt about why his team lost by such decisive margins.

"It’s a harsh reality, but they just had better players then us," he said. "Those are high level Division I-A teams and we’re a mid-level at best. None of the kids on our roster were recruited by an SEC program and only a few were recruited by a Conference USA program. When you’re recruiting against the SEC, it’s difficult. That’s every player’s dream to play in the SEC. We’ve been in some battles (for players), but we haven’t had that much success."

Adding to Troy State’s current woes is that last year’s leading scorer Jennifer McInnis decided not to return to the team following the game against Auburn. McInnis had struggled with her shooting early in the year, averaging just 7.6 points per game.

"Jennifer had problems with her knee and she chose not to rejoin the team. She had not had a good year early on, " said Hester. "But then again that all goes with playing these ‘money games’, (against Cincinnati, Auburn and Alabama). If we hadn’t played those games and she had not struggled and had her confidence broken, she may still be here."

The loss of McInnis saps the Lady Trojans depth at the shooting guard spot, where part-time starter Chaquita Alexander will look to take up the slack. Alexander is averaging 12.8 points per game.

And although the Lady Trojans have left their challenging non-conference schedule behind, Hester said his team will again face one of the nation’s toughest in Belmont University on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

Belmont, UCF, Troy State and Florida Atlantic are all currently tied for first place in the Atlantic Sun.

Belmont’s only loss of the season was against Cincinnati in the same Bearcat Invitational Tournament which TSU participated in.

"And they gave Cincinnati all they wanted," said Hester. "If they had played that game anywhere else, Belmont probably would have won it. They’re the best A-Sun team I’ve seen since Florida International left the league."

Tip-off is at 2 p.m.