Coming off two straight blowout losses to Rutgers and Miami (Ohio), the women’s basketball team changed its starting lineup Saturday against Florida by benching senior center Lady Comfort and sophomore guard LaKeisha Eaddy. In their place, junior center Shanea Cotton and sophomore guard Kristie Watkins-Day began the game on the court.
Staley’s reasoning behind the move was blunt.
“We weren’t getting any production from [Comfort and Eaddy] to start the game,” Staley said. “We need production.”
The move seemed to work, though the Owls fell, 68-54, to the Gators at the Liacouras Center. Comfort tallied a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds – including eight on offense, which tied a season-high. Eaddy also chipped in with 14 points, her most since her 23-point outburst against Western Michigan on Dec. 16.
“Quite simply, [Comfort] hasn’t been playing well, the last probably 10 games, and we need her to play well,” Staley said. “We may continue with the lineup, since it did spark her a little bit.”
Though Comfort came off the bench for the first time since her freshman season and Eaddy for the first time in her collegiate career, the two tried to look on the bright side of the situation.
“I got to see how the pace was going to be of the game, how [Florida was] going to play the post players,” Comfort said.
“I think for us it was the anticipation of being able to get on the court and help our team,” Eaddy added.
With the loss, the Owls wrapped up their non-conference schedule and stand at 7-9, certainly not the kind of record they were hoping for. Four of those wins came against Mid-American Conference schools, and two others came against less-than-stellar Big 5 teams in Villanova and Penn. The Owls lone quality win came against then-ranked Purdue in the Paradise Jam Tournament. They’ve had chances against the likes of Duke, Stanford and North Carolina State, but fell just short in those contests. Combine that with un-competitive losses to Maryland and Rutgers, and a team that still has a lot of question marks emerges.
“It’s really a puzzle,” Staley said. “We have to, as a coaching staff, figure out who fits where, when, at what time. We got, really, one dimensional people right now. Until we can continue to work and get them confident in those other areas, [the problems will continue].”
And as the Owls head into their Atlantic Ten Conference schedule, one key question arises: Are they where they want to be?
“Not as our record shows, no,” Comfort said. “I mean, we’re just trying to get it together before [Saturday]. So we got a week to just get it together.”
Averaging over 15 points and having a breakthrough senior year, guard Ashley Morris has been the key bright spot for the Owls and is a candidate for A-10 Player of the Year. However, in the last two games, Morris has been nowhere to be found, tallying just eight points while shooting just 3-of-14 from the field against Miami (Ohio), and scoring a season-low two points against Florida while shooting an even worse 1-of-12 from the field. Needless to say, these are two games Morris would rather forget.
“She forced shots, she forced shots in the paint and you can’t do that,” Staley said. “If it is not your night, then you got to play with the same energy, as is, and get somebody else involved.”
Still, Staley believes in the co-captain and team leader.
“Ashley’s going to be there; Ashley’s going to be there,” Staley said. “She just had a bad night.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.