Following a 9-19 season last year, the Slippery Rock University women’s basketball team will hope to turn things around this season and make a run in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) playoffs. Rock head coach Bobby McGraw attributed a large part to last year’s downfall to the loss of their point guard, Lexi Carpenter to injury.
“When you lose the tenth leading scorer, not in the conference, in the nation, who shoots 90% from the free-throw line, who nobody can take the ball off, and who nobody can get in front of, that changes everything,” McGraw said.
McGraw said he recognizes that last season ended “rough.” The women don’t shy away from talking about last year, he said. Last season, the women gave up a total 2,109 points in the season, allowing 75.3 points per game, which was ranked 18th out of 18 teams in the PSAC.
“No matter who you have on the floor, if you finish 18 out of 18 in points allowed per game, you’re not going to win a bunch of games,” McGraw said.
Junior Ciara Patterson and sophomore Leeann Gibson, who will serve as the team captains this season, both said this year their team is focusing a lot on the defense.
“We are going to be very defense-oriented this year,” Patterson said. “We have a lot of quick guards out there that can move their feet and get all around the court.”
At the moment, The Rock is ranked to finish sixth in the PSAC, according to the preseason coach’s poll. McGraw, entering his fourth season leading the Green and White, said based off of who The Rock has returning and who other teams in the PSAC has returning, that being ranked sixth “sounds about right.”
“It has to do with us competing in not just the best league, but in the best conference in the best league in the country,” he said.
Starting off the season, McGraw said the starting five could vary from game to game. At the moment, McGraw said the five getting the most reps on the court are Patterson, Gibson, sophomore Brooke Hinderliter, sophomore Madison Johnson, who transferred from Division 1 Saint Francis (Pa.), and junior Morgan Henderson. But McGraw said there is also a lineup that consists Hinderliter, Johnson, Patterson, and seniors Mallory Heinle and Krista Pietropola that could also start a lot of the games.
With Lexi Carpenter graduated, McGraw said that his team will look to give the ball to Patterson in pressure-filled situations.
“Right now, if we had to put the ball in someone’s hands when we are down a point with 15 seconds left, it would be Ciara Patterson,” McGraw said.
Patterson didn’t appear in a game last season, and McGraw said people forget about the damage she did to teams two years ago. During the 2015-2016 season, Patterson recorded 354 points (12.6 per game), 58 assists, and 88 rebounds.
“[Patterson) had 26 points against IUP,” McGraw said. “She had 15 in the first half against Duquesne, who happened to be #22 in the country for Division 1 women’s basketball, and she averaged 13 points per game. So yeah, if we were down a point with a few seconds, the ball would be in her hands.”
Hinderliter is also expected to improve immensely from her impressive rookie season, McGraw said. McGraw said that Hinderliter was “robbed” by the conference by not winning the “PSAC West Freshman of the Year” award. However, instead of “hanging her head” about it, Hinderliter has worked twice as hard in the offseason, he said. McGraw said Hinderliter will start the season being The Rock’s primary point guard.
McGraw said that Pietropola is expected to continue being a three-point threat to opponents. She enters the season 15th in program history for three-pointers made with 62. McGraw continued by saying Pietropola had a “fantastic” summer because she came back this year in the best shape he has seen her in yet.
“Krista Pietropola is hands down one of the best shooters in the PSAC,” McGraw said. “She just needs reminded of that sometimes. She can really light it up when she gets rolling and we need a big contribution from her this year if we wish to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
The Rock brings in two transfers to their team this year. Johnson, who was mentioned above as transferring from Saint Francis University, is joined by Kasich Harris from Harford Community College in Maryland. McGraw said that Harris has suffered a knee injury and will likely be out for most of the season.
“We expect all of the transfers to make huge impacts for our team this year in some way,” McGraw said
McGraw also introduces four freshmen to The Rock. Aujanane Givner, Lex Perry, Kaylee Young, and Skyla O’Conner all bring “unique” talent to SRU, McGraw said. McGraw continued by saying that he expects O’Conner to receive a lot of minutes this season and will be a force on the court for her team this year.
McGraw said one of the biggest positives he sees in his team this year is the senior leadership by the veterans on the team.
“Mallory Heinle has been with me for four years now, Sierra Fordham has been with me for four years, Krista Pietropola has been with me for three years, Patterson has been here for three years,” McGraw said. “This is the most seasoned team I have had.”
Slippery Rock will open up their 2017-2018 season this weekend when they travel to Richmond, Virginia, to take part in the annual “PSAC-CIAA Challenge.” Last year at this tournament, The Rock won both games they played in. They beat Johnson C. Smith University in a narrow 80-79 final score and took down Fayetteville State University 67-58. The first of the two games will be this Friday against Virginia State University (22-8 last season). Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The second game will be the following day against Lincoln University (9-20 last season). Tipoff for game two is scheduled for 1 p.m.