Another day, another win. Another week, another milestone. That’s the way things have seemed for the women’s basketball team lately.
The Owls beat Xavier for their 14th-consecutive win Sunday to keep them deadlocked with Delaware and Gonzaga for the longest active streaks in the nation.
They were rewarded Tuesday by jumping up to No. 22 in the country in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today rankings. This is the second week in a row the Owls have found themselves in the top 25. Their current rank is an all-time high for the program.
“I don’t really think about it,” sophomore forward Kamesha Hairston said of the team’s national recognition. “I’m happy that we’re in [the top 25] now. Before, when we weren’t in, I thought that we deserved to be there. But now that we’re ranked, we have to keep playing and try to really get [up in the rankings].”
Hairston reached a personal milestone this week when she earned her first Big 5 Player of the Week award. She followed up a 13-point, 10-rebound performance against George Washington last Thursday with a career-high 31 points against the Musketeers.
This Sunday, Hairston and the Owls take on Atlantic Ten Conference foe Duquesne. The Dukes are currently in fifth place in the West Division with a 7-12 overall record and a 2-6 record in conference play.
Junior guard Aiga Bautre, a 5-foot-11 sniper from Riga, Latvia, leads the Dukes and ranks third in the A-10 in scoring with a 16.7 average. She leads the conference in free throw percentage (.895) and three-point percentage (.418).
Bautre is helped on offense by sophomore forward Loui Hall, who is second on the team with 13.5 points per game.
Junior forward Nicole Sinclair dominates the glass, averaging almost as many rebounds per game (9.0) as points (9.6). Sinclair ranks second in the A-10 in rebounding behind Temple center Candice Dupree.
Entering their game against Xavier tonight, the Dukes had lost three straight games and seven of their last nine overall.
If not for a 14-point loss to then-No. 2 and current No. 1 LSU at the Liacouras Center Nov. 23, the Owls would be unbeaten at home. Since that loss the Owls are 10-0 on their home floor.
During the program-record 14-game winning streak, the Owls have not given up more than 64 points in a game and have held four teams under 50 points. They currently rank second in the A-10 in scoring defense (54.8), field goal percentage defense (.361) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.268).
The Owls are first in the conference in blocks with 88, an average of 4.4 per game. Dupree’s 43 rejections accounts for almost half of those. Her two timely swats in the final minute against Xavier proved crucial to the Owls’ victory.
“The first [block] I just went up and went for it,” Dupree said. “I didn’t think I was going to get it. But I was able to get [the ball] to Kamesha and she took it in for the layup. The second one, I know [point guard Cynthia Jordan] had gotten beat going to the basket, so I was just yelling at her, ‘Don’t foul, don’t foul.’ And then I just jumped up and smashed it.”
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.