by Adam Pruiett
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The numbers that coaches would most like to forget are often the ones they can recall with the greatest clarity. When the subject of North Alabama, the Bellarmine University women’s basketball team’s opponent in its season opener, was broached with Knights Coach Chancellor Dugan, she immediately threw out a figure from last year’s 82-62 loss on the road to the Lions. “We had 31 turnovers,” she noted, “and 31 turnovers always stands out when you have that many.”
Bellarmine will look for other, more positive statistics to jump off the page Saturday at Knights Hall when it gets the 2014-15 season underway by welcoming the Lions for a 7 p.m. (ET) contest in nonconference play. Both Bellarmine (13-14 last season) and North Alabama (15-13 in 2013-14) had similar outcomes in their exhibition games against Division I opponents. With less than five minutes left in the first half, the Knights were within three of Western Kentucky before the Hilltoppers gained a 44-37 lead at halftime. WKU took control in the second half and won 102-55. North Alabama grabbed a 31-30 advantage at halftime over Alabama before the Crimson Tide dominated the second half en route to an 80-48 victory.
“I think we did some fairly good work the first half,” Dugan said. “I wasn’t 100 percent pleased with how we played. I thought we left too much out there defensively and offensively. We didn’t pick up the ball very well in transition. I didn’t think that we guarded screens very well. That is a big push this week to see if that can be corrected. “I think they know they played well enough to have the lead in the first half. We got backed up on our heels and took a punch and were just staggering for the first 10 minutes of that second half, and we never could recover from it.” North Alabama has plenty of experience and ammo returning from year’s team, particularly in the backcourt.
Senior guard Lauren Faris, a Louisville native and graduate of Mercy Academy, led the Lions in scoring last season at 14.9 points per game. Junior guard Jennifer Towne was the team’s second-leading scorer (14.0) and rebounder (6.5) along with topping the squad in steals (39). Senior guard Delisa Madry is the third returning double-digit scorer (10.0), while junior guard Janae Lyde led the team in assists. Senior forward Corrine White averaged 7.9 points and sank 50 3-pointers, second to the 56 of Madry. “They like to shoot the 3, and they do a very good job of shooting the 3,” Dugan said. “All five of them can shoot it, too. We’ve got to make sure we’re aware of where their kids are when they’re coming down in transition.”
Junior guard Mariah Gador scored 14 of her game-high 21 points in the first half in the exhibition against Western Kentucky. Sophomore guard Whitney Hartlage added 10 points, sophomore guard Destony Curry chipped in eight with four assists and senior forward Morgan Clemons corralled seven rebounds. Bellarmine committed 29 turnovers against the athletic Hilltoppers, and Dugan said the Lions will also be very active on the defensive end. It will be paramount for the Knights to avoid a pile up of turnovers all season, and Dugan sees no better time than their regular season opener to start developing a positive trend.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball,” she said. “They’re a very good team with a lot of kids back from last year. We’re looking forward to opening up against them. We’re not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like some of the progress that we’ve had over the last week or so. I like how we responded and came back and practiced. I like their effort the past couple days in what we’re doing. We have their attention.”
North Alabama (0-0) at Bellarmine (0-0)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 15
Time: 7 p.m. (ET)
Location: Knights Hall
Radio: 94.7 FM