Earlier today, Gibson and the Techster's Shanavia Dowdell were both named WAC player of the week. Dowdell averaged 19.5 points and 10 rebounds in her team's two wins.
The Bulldogs travel to Las Cruces to take on a 13-12 Aggies team that is 7-5 in the conference. The men's race in the WAC is basically Utah State in first, and then everyone else is a jumbled mess. If Tech can finish strong, they stand a good chance to earn a fairly high seed in the tournament. It all starts tonight on the road and the Dawgs have been playing well on the road in front of big crowds. They beat Nevada last week and gave Utah State a good scare. If Kyle Gibson shoots like he did on Thursday, then Tech will almost certainly win.
As the season winds down, the Bulldogs seem to be coming together. Magnum Rolle has been the anchor down low. He really has stepped up his game of late and he does just about everything: scoring, rebounding, blocking shots, getting his hand on passes. Gibson has been hot and cold. He only missed one shot on Thursday, but did not hit a single shot in an earlier game. Jamel Guyton has been the same way, and unfortunately, the two of them don't seem to ever be hot at the same time.
Sean Oliverson has stepped into a backup center role and done a great job. At 6'11, he gives Coach Rupp a big, athletic defender and rebounder. Olu Ashaolu had a stretch a few weeks ago that left fans excited. He was bulldozing his way to the basket and taking no prisoners. If the team can put all of its positives together in this stretch run, they have a chance to win some games.
The Lady Techsters looked a lot like the Techsters of the late nineties this weekend. Dowdell and Adrienne Johnson gave them strong post play. Whitney Jones and Tiawanna Pringle looked like Tamicha Jackson and LaQuan Stallworth at times. Tarkeisha Wysigner and Sidney Stewart are really, really good players that do all of the little things. Stewart had 5 assists on Sunday and Wysinger always seems to get a key steal or loose ball.
Weatherspoon has her troops fired up and they played hard for her. Both games could have ended up being blowouts, but the team played so hard they seemed to slack up at the end. The one downfall of the current team is the rebounding, or lack of rebounding. They were out rebounded by 15 on Friday night. A lot of it is blocking out and effort, but some of it is technique and being in the right position. Weatherspoon said they will work on the boards in practice. Help will be on the way next year too. Two 6'3" players are signed to help give the Techsters depth inside. Additionally, one of the new centers, Lenita Sanford, was a high school All-American. Sha'Kayla Caples, a 5'11" forward, was widely regarded as the best player in Mississippi. She will also add depth to the Techster's frontcourt. More than depth, Sanford and Caples will team with Dowdell and Johnson to provide the best frontcourt the Techster's have had since Cheryl Ford, Trina Frierson, and Amisha Carter were patrolling the paint. Carter, by the way, is averaging 12 points and 7 boards for a team in Poland right now.
The Lady Techsters seem to play hard for Weatherspoon. I really think they feed off of her energy and I don't think this new found enthusiasm will wear off. I'm not sure if they will win the WAC tournament this year, but I like their chances now. I really like their chances next year.
Before I get too carried away again with expectations, I will come back to this year. The Bulldogs have gone through a constant state of upheaval it seems like over the last two years. They had high hopes this year, and after losing Jamel White and later Kenneth Cooper, it seems like a totally different team than the one picked to be a WAC contender. This team brings back most of the rotation and adds some key pieces to the team next year.
Things are looking up in the Thomas Assembly Center.