Four glaring issues women’s basketball team must address

Tough may not be an adequate enough word to describe the circumstances of Georgia State’s women’s basketball team this season. Coming into the new year, the Panthers appeared to be poised become a Sun Belt contender. Last season’s standouts all returned with another year of experience and the team gained a top 100 national recruit in guard Jada Lewis. However, the team is off to a 1-4 start in conference play and a 5-11 overall record on the year. There are still just under two months until the end of the regular season, but the team appears to be falling into the same pattern previous women’s basketball squads have fallen under.

“I think we started off pretty good at Georgia [Southern] beating them,” Head Coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener said of conference play after a practice on Jan. 10. “Then we come and play the preseason No. 1 team in Troy and I think we played pretty well, especially in that first half. We were down five at halftime. I thought there were a lot of good things that happened in that game.”

Coach Baldwin-Tener isn’t panicking about the team’s rocky start, and for good reason, but the Panthers need to accomplish these four things if they want a shot at reaching the Sun Belt Tournament championship game in March.

  1. Improve assist-turnover ratio

In the Panthers first two Sun Belt losses, the team had a combined 28 more turnovers than assists. In the win against Georgia Southern, Georgia State had more assists than turnovers. The Panthers have a record of 3-10 when committing more turnovers than assists while going 2-1 vice versa. Georgia State’s chances of winning increase 37 percent just by staying on the right side of the assist/turnover ratio.

  1. Foul less

Georgia State has out fouled its opponents by 21 in the first five games of conference play. Coach Baldwin-Tener said she believes that stat is a result of non-aggressive play on the offensive end and a lack of discipline on defense, despite recent defensive improvements.

“I do think that our defense has improved in the last couple of weeks tremendously and we don’t foul quite as much as we have, thank goodness,” Coach Baldwin-Tener said. “We just have to continue to get better, but it’s been a tough road trying to do that with a lot of injuries.”

  1. Get Healthy

Any team missing the starting point guard and reigning conference player of the year will face a setback of some sort.

“Madison [Newby] was our only point guard, actually,” sophomore forward K.K. Williams said. “We’ve got Jayln [Harrison] coming in, a freshman, playing our point guard now. She’s working hard and playing hard, but Madison was our main one.”

Senior forward Tiffany Holston and freshman center Shaq Miller-McCray also missed recent contests, because they had to attend funerals. The loss of Newby, to go along with the normal day-to-day season injuries, is preventing this team to get a rhythm.

“This probably is my worst year of injuries, to tell you the truth,” Coach Baldwin-Tener said. “As far as practicing day in and day out. There’s some games where we’ve had three or four starters out from who I thought would’ve started at the beginning of the year. Obviously, Madison’s gone for the year and she was a big piece of it. I think that Jaylyn and Jada [Lewis] have both stepped up. They’re competitors. They are freshmen, but they’re learning very quick and trying to make some things happen, but they’re different players from Madison. Madison got to the free throw line a lot, she was very aggressive. I think that was a piece of our game that we’re not doing.”

  1. Finish at the basket


Georgia State is shooting 36.2 percent from the field in the first five games of conference play, which isn’t that bad actually, but the numbers of layups they miss every game is concerning.

“I do think we’ve missed a lot of easy shots right at the basket. Most of those have been post players, though,” Coach Baldwin-Tener said. “We have had some guards driving in and not being able to finish, but I think we’ve got to either draw in the contact or we’ve got to finish. It’d be nice to have a couple and-one’s as well.”

Williams thinks a lack of reps outside of designated time may be the problem with the missed shots in the paint.

“I think we just need to get in the gym on our own,” Williams said. “Get somebody to get in the gym with us. Hit us, contact. It’s mostly contact that we’re not finishing with, so we just have to work on finishing with contact. Playing through the foul.”