Basketball season opens with exhibition games set at home

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will rely on team unity and hard work as they look for success in the MIAA conference tournament heading into the 2004-2005 season.

Maryann Mitts, head women’s basketball coach, said expectations are high for this season considering last season’s 19-9 record. The women missed their chance to play in the NCAA tournament by one place when they finished ninth in the region. They also finished fifth in the MIAA conference last season.

Mitts said the Lions’ MIAA is strong and competitive from top to bottom. However, one of the team’s goals this season is to make it to the NCAA tournament.

“Finishing in the top three in our conference would allow us to earn a berth into the NCAA tournament,” Mitts said.

As far as changes from last season are considered, Mitts said talent has improved in some key positions. Due to the athleticism of the group this year, the Lions can set the tempo of the game on the defensive end with a press team defense.

Andrea Gossard, sophomore point guard, agreed.

“We have a very athletic team and a lot of ability to run on teams and overpower them,” Gossard said.

The Lions won’t only use physical strength, but also team unity.

“We have a good cohesive group this year,” Mitts said. “They get along better than any other team I’ve coached in the last 10 years.”

Mitts said unity is important and helps the players trust each other and pull through as a team. She hopes the team’s unity will have huge benefits as the season progresses.

Coach Mitts expects the women to play with an “immense amount of intensity and competitiveness.” Her coaching philosophy is if they play disciplined ball and out-hustle their opponents, good things will happen.

“Winning will take care of itself,” she said. “Overall they plan to play with a lot of passion and love for the game.”

Likewise, men’s head basketball coach, Robert Corn, said the men work well together because they are unselfish. Due to this, he said they are able to reverse the ball and get it to a player in a scoring opportunity.

However, Corn said whether they win or lose depends on what kind of defense they play. He said the Lions’ goals were to improve day to day and become the best team they possibly can. Corn wants to improve from last season’s 14-14 record and do well in the conference tournament.

Senior shooting guard, Hiram Ocasio, said one of the team’s goals this season is to win the MIAA championship. To do this he said the team will have to work together and be like family.

“We’re not content with just making the conference tournament,” Corn said.

He said the Lions have won a couple championships in the past, and have been beaten three straight years in the semifinals. However, he said when the team is there, they are there to play and have a chance to win the championship.

In preparation for the 2004 to 2005 basketball season, the Lions spent time in strength and conditioning as well as working on their personal skills in pickup games.

Both Mitts and Corn said Coach Mike Lawrence is doing a great job with the athletes in the strength and conditioning program.

“Off season conditioning is excellent,” said Amy Adkison, senior power forward. “It prepares us for the physical part, then once the season starts we can just focus on basketball.”

Both Lions teams will begin with home exhibition games this week.

The women will meet the Oklahoma Flyers at 7 p.m. Friday in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

The men will face Universidad de las Americás from Santiago, Chile at 7 p.m. Thursday in Leggett & Platt.

Coach Mitts and Coach Corn both said they want students to come out and support the basketball teams.

“The fans are definitely a big part of the success,” Corn said. “They’ve made a difference in the outcome of our games in the past.”