Photo by Neil Faux/@FauxFx
Previewing this weekend’s season opener presented by The Best Of Belton
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UMHB vs. Emory: Nov. 19, 2 pm CT, Atlanta, GA, WATCH
UMHB vs Lynchburg: Nov. 20, 2 pm CT, Atlanta, GA, WATCH
Head Coach: Misha Jackson
Conference: University Athletic Association (UAA)
Overall Record: 4-0
Notable win: @ Colorado College, 87-70
2021-22 Record: 15-9
Head Coach: Allison Nichols
Conference: Old Dominion Athletic (ODAC)
Overall Record: 1-2
Notable win: @ William Peace, 84-71
2021-22 Record: 16-11
No. 15 UMHB
Head Coach: Mark Morefield
Conference: American Southwest
Overall Record: 0-0
2021-22 Record: 24-5
ASC Preseason Poll rank: No. 2
The season opener
The 2022-23 campaign tips off for Mark Morefield’s squad against a strong opponent in the undefeated Emory Eagles. Playing on their home court in this matchup, the Eagles will be a quality test for the nation’s No. 15 team.
Emory is led by Claire Brock, a senior guard from Knoxville, Tennessee, who is averaging 27.5 points per game. On Wednesday against LaGrange, she became the first player in Emory women’s basketball history to record consecutive 30-point games, with performances of 33 and 32 points. She is 13-of-20 from three-point range, and shooting 63.3 percent from the field entering Saturday’s contest.
“Everything really runs through Claire Brock,” Morefield said. “She’s a dynamic guard, she pushes the ball, she can shoot it well, and make plays at the rim. We have to make sure that we do our job on her defensively.”
A look at Lynchburg
Lynchburg was picked No. 7 in the ODAC preseason poll, and started the year with its first three games on the road. Similar to UMHB, Lynchburg will play the majority of its non-conference schedule away, with the home opener not coming until Nov. 30, when the Hornets face Randolph in a conference game.
The Hornets are led offensively by true freshman Macey Mullins, who is averaging 11.3 points per game through three contests. As a team, Lynchburg is averaging 59.3 points per game, and will be looking to continue to improve on its rebounding, having been outrebounded by an average of 6.3 boards per game.
Strong guard play will be vital for UMHB
Morefield has said throughout the preseason that UMHB’s guards are some of the best the program has ever had. This group is experienced and deep, meaning the Crusaders should have a variety of contributors in the backcourt.
Headlining the returning group is Region 10 Freshman of the Year Arieona Rosborough, who was named to the ASC’s Preseason Watch List after her strong first season in 2021-22. UMHB also brings in a number of transfers, including Jaycie Brisco, from SAGU, and Payton Hicks, who previously played at UT-Rio Grande Valley.
“We have athletic and dynamic guards this year,” Morefield said. “It will be interesting to see, because I feel like we are probably the most athletic that we’ve been in our backcourt in my time here.”
A late start
UMHB is the last of the nation’s Top 25 teams to begin its season, starting 11 days after the first official day of D-III games, on Nov. 8. This was done with a purpose, considering the NCAA does not allow practice to begin until Oct. 15. Starting its schedule almost two weeks later than most gave UMHB a chance to improve and the team an opportunity to mesh, before the official tip-off.
“You can’t ask an athlete to go in there after two weeks of practice and voluntary preseason workouts, and expect them to perform at a high level,” Morefield said. “It’s unrealistic to expect that. For us, we would have liked to have played last weekend, but with the schedule of going to Emory, it just didn’t work. But we have played two scrimmages against two very athletic junior college teams, which have helped us to change some things here and there.
“I’ll be honest, this is probably something we will stick with, where we don’t open up until the 18th or 19th [of November]. I think it is a benefit. You have to have your players ready and not risk injury.”