Women’s basketball seeks to ascend to the top of CAA

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Women’s basketball seeks to ascend to the top of CAA

Shrita Parker (4)

Shrita Parker (4)

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Shrita Parker (4)

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Shrita Parker (4)

Lanre Badmus, Staff Writer

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The goal for the UNC Wilmington women’s basketball team this season has been to improve on the strides it made last year. An 8-4 record including their first Colonial Athletic Association win gives coach Karen Barefoot’s team a belief it can surpass last year’s 12-19 season.

In Barefoot’s first season in the Port City, UNCW lost its first ten conference games en route to a 4-14 CAA record. This year, the Seahawks got a win to open CAA play, taking care of College of Charleston, 71-49, at Trask Coliseum. The game was the second Seahawks Tomorrow game of the season, having been played in front of 4,511 New Hanover County elementary school students.

Improvements and standouts

This season the Seahawks have been paced by two transfers. Redshirt senior guard Shrita Parker, formerly of Rutgers, leads UNCW in scoring with 18.7 points per game. Meanwhile, redshirt junior guard GiGi Smith is second on the team with 14.7 PPG. Those numbers respectively are good enough for third and eighth on the CAA scoring leaders’ chart, and Smith is one of four players in the conference to have hit double figures in every single game so far. The duo has presented a threat for opposing defenses as well as a potent one-two punch for Barefoot’s offense.

Additionally, the Seahawks have seen significant improvement from forward Paige Powell this term. The sophomore is currently averaging 6.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest, having also notched three double-doubles in wins over Belmont Abbey, Presbyterian and Fayetteville State. Powell has started seven of UNCW’s 12 games so far this season.

On the defensive end, the Seahawks are averaging 10.1 steals per game as a team, with Parker averaging 2.4 SPG. Smith and sixth man junior guard Lacey Suggs are both averaging nearly two steals per contest. The quick hands on the team have helped them turn defense into offense at an efficient rate. Barefoot will have been happy with her players showing the trademark hustle and hard work that is a hallmark of her squads.

Overcoming obstacles

This year the Seahawks have benefited from visiting Power 5 opponents in their nonconference schedule such as North Carolina and Pittsburgh, giving the latter a run for their money. After some tough tests such as a narrow 71-68 victory at East Carolina to close out 2018, they were able to come out with a 7-4 nonconference record, adding to the squad’s confidence going into the new year.

Now having gotten conference play off on the right foot with the win over Charleston, the Seahawks will hope to continue to improve and ascend to the top of the CAA standings. However, the Cougars won two CAA games last year and were picked to finish last this year.

Early tests include last year’s CAA tournament champion Elon and James Madison who shared the CAA regular-season crown with Drexel. The Dukes were picked to win the CAA this year while Elon was slotted into the top-three as well.

A win against either conference powerhouse would go a long way towards establishing UNCW as one of the conference’s best teams.