02/26/09 — MOC women want home court advantage

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MOC women want home court advantage

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 26, 2009 1:46 PM

Mount Olive settled down and gained some composure in a key road victory Tuesday at Queens University.

Now, the Trojan women must do it again.

Today is gut-check time against archrival Barton College.

The winner claims the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage for next week's Conference Carolinas women's basketball tournament. Mount Olive, ranked No. 8 in the Southeast Region, won the first meeting in overtime on Jan. 22.

"It's been important these last two (regular-season) games that we find ourselves again," said MOC head coach Wendy Lee. "We must focus on one game at a time and also understand that this is preparation for the tournament, too.

"We need to try and keep (our) perspective on the next two games."

The Dawgs lead the series 18-6 since the late 1990s, but the Trojans have won four of the last five meetings, including back-to-back trips to hostile Wilson Gymnasium within the last year.

Mount Olive (21-5 overall, 17-4 CC) is ranked nationally in three team categories -- first in 3-point field goal defense (23 percent), 12th with five blocks per game and 18th with 18.1 assists per game.

Senior forward Tomeka Prichard, just one of two Trojans to start all 26 games this season, averages 16.4 points per game. JUCO transfer Jasmine Whitby is knocking 15.9 points an outing, while senior Brittney Robich is scoring at a 10.9 clip.

Whitby has grabbed nearly nine boards a game.

Lee said the team's chemistry was disrupted during back-to-back losses against Belmont Abbey and Erskine. Junior Helen Moore, senior LaTara Wade and guard LaPorsha Davis have been trying to work themselves back into the rotation.

"We've got three players trying to get back into the groove who have been out most of the year," said Lee. "That changes things and that could be a part of what's going on. Plus, we're playing good teams late that are executing well whereas we're struggling."

Barton boasts the nation's sixth-best scoring offense -- 83.1 points a game. Point guard Esty Flores is ranked in three individual categories -- 10th in free throw percentage (.903), 15th in scoring (20.5 points) and 18 in assists (5.3 a game).

The Dawgs have won six straight games.

"Right now our confidence is a little bit bruised," said Lee. "We need to get back focused on defense, rebounding and get our minds off offense so much. I think we might be struggling with some confidence right now.

"People are trying so hard that they're not doing their best."