AP NEWS

Tall task ahead for ’Devils without Hunt

December 5, 2016 GMT

The past two games for the Dustdevils women’s basketball team have been arguably their worst performances of the season.

Now without one of their best players and featuring a team of just six players, the group will have to rebound against an unbeaten opponent in order to avoid making history they want no part of.

Texas A&M International heads to Central Oklahoma Monday at 5:30 p.m. looking to avoid the program’s first 0-8 start in history.

The school is coming off a pair of devastating losses falling by a combined 77 points to Eckerd College and Tampa during an event last week in Florida.

“Florida was rough. For whatever reason, we didn’t really compete when we were down there,” TAMIU first-year head coach Jeff Caha said.

“It’s one of those things where it’s a new year and you didn’t recruit these kids and build relationships so you’re still learning about them as much as they’re learning about you. I hope they come out and compete.

UCO is talented but they’re not unbeatable by any means.

We will see what we can do. I’d love to say this team is always going to come out and play hard but that hasn’t been the case.”

The Dustdevils began 0-7 on one other occasion.

In the program’s inaugural season in 2004 while in the NAIA, the team lost its first seven but rallied for a respectable 14-20 campaign.

TAMIU lost its first seven in 2011 but the opening three were exhibition games.

This year’s team also lost three exhibition games before entering the regular season.

The 2011 squad finished the year 7-21, the second-worst record in school history ahead of only 2010 when they were 5-23.

“We want to constantly improve as coaches and feel like you are peaking at the end of the year,” Caha said.

“If we do that, I don’t know what that will look like or if it will be good enough. Our expectations were so low being picked in the preseason eighth out of nine teams.

Our expectations are to get into that conference tournament and I think it’s very doable. The teams in our league are dropping games as well. It’s still up in the air and we keep trying to tell that to our girls.”

Before the roster can build on any long-term success, it must first just work on winning one game.

That may be a bit difficult Monday, however, against a Central Oklahoma team that has had little problem with opponents this year.

The Bronchos are 6-0 and have scored at least 68 points in every game this year.

Among those outings include a 101-point performance against Northwest Oklahoma State and putting up 91 against Southeastern Oklahoma State.

In even worse news, TAMIU center Rosebrooke Hunt was injured in practice and did not make the trip for Monday’s game.

The team hopes she will be back at practice this week, but for now that means the Dustdevils will be without one of the top players in the Heartland Conference.

She is 15th in the league in points (10.7) and fifth in rebounds (9.5) per game.

The loss only amplifies the team’s already major struggles from its lack of depth.

With just eight total players, the team could not afford any injuries in the first place.

An illness kept Unique Finley out the first four games and she has returned to average 2.7 points over 14 minutes in the past three outings.

Meanwhile, Veshae Asaua-Wilkinson played in the first two before a concussion that has kept her out of action since.

That’s led to significant minutes for TAMIU’s core players in Hunt, forward Hannah Beede and point guard Joanna Perez.

All three rank among the top players in the nation in minutes per game with Perez sitting ninth (37.71), Beede 18th (36.57) and Hunt 38th (35.57).

Without Hunt and Asaua-Wilkinson, not only will the team only have six players and be down two bigs, but they will also have to replace Hunt’s production and nearly 36 minutes.

“It’s good for me to try and fight through this and figure it out,” Caha said.

“You always want a challenge to see how good you are. I would like nothing more to bust out a win with six girls and say we figured this out.

“We’ve got a couple wrinkles to throw at them and we’ll see what happens.”

While UCO’s offense has been a strength at times, TAMIU has really had trouble offensively.

The school is averaging just 47.1 points per game.

In Division II, the NCAA lists only the top 300 scoring offenses statistically out of 316 teams.

The 300th team, East Central, is averaging 51.7 points.

The lack of success and the team’s short bench has led to a drastic change starting Monday as the emphasis will begin to be on playing slower and more efficiently.

“Offensively I like to go,” Caha said. “Looking at what we had, our best option to score was transition and running, but for whatever reason it hasn’t panned out like I wanted to.

We changed some things up and we are going to slow it way down. I’m going to have my thumb on every possession. If we kept doing the same things and expected a different result then that’s insanity. I’m going to bark out every time we have the ball and we will defend better.”

Whether or not the Dustdevils are successful on Monday, the team will at least benefit from getting their next five games at home.

TAMIU hosts Texas A&M-Kingsville (4-2) Saturday at 6 p.m. before opening the Heartland Conference schedule.

The next week, the team hosts Arkansas-Fort Smith (4-4) on Dec. 17 before facing Rogers State (3-5) Dec. 19.

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