"Happiness is Lubbock, Texas in your Rearview Mirror" was once a hit song. The current Ole Miss Lady Rebels might wish they'd known it late Sunday afternoon. Following their 86-38 loss at Texas Tech, it would have been an appropriate tune for bus or plane.
But their head coach isn't ready to forget. She says there is much to remember from that trip and loss before 12,000 fans, and that the Lady Rebs are now fully aware that there are a lot of things they have to do better.
"We have to become a better defensive team, period," said second-year UM Coach Carol Ross of her 4-3 team. "Of course we know we have to score. But we've got to get our defense and rebounding in tip-top shape. Offensively we've got players that we know can play. But offense comes and goes. We have to build this program around defense and rebounding."
To be fair, the Lady Rebs were not at full strength in Lubbock. Sophomore guard Armintie Price, the SEC Freshman of the Year last season, did not make the trip because of a death in the family. Also backup senior center Amber Terrell, academically ineligible the first semester this school year, was supposed to be cleared to play against the Lady Red Raiders. But word of her clearance did not come in time, so she missed that game.
Both players and all their teammates will be available today as the Lady Rebs host Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 7 p.m., the first of two games in Oxford this week. Ole Miss also hosts Grambling State Thursday at 7 p.m.
"I've got to get our team playing harder right now," said Ross, who, along with her coaching staff, is trying to fit all the pieces of the 2004-05 puzzle together as SEC play approaches. "We've got to cover up some of our mistakes with enthusiasm and effort. It's what any good team does. We're just not where we need to be yet. They're fearful of making mistakes. They get a little down when things don't go well. We've got to be a team that when things don't go well we turn it up a notch and get better and not hang our heads."
Ross says even with a lopsided loss like the one in Lubbock, maybe the Lady Rebels aren't that far away from being a better team than it would appear on the surface.
"My main thing now is just to see progress," she said. "I would say we are making some. The Texas Tech game didn't give us many highlights or positives to pull from. As bizarre as it may sound, there were some minor things or some few things we could draw from. If nothing else, it makes everybody step back and evaluate a lot of things."
Arkansas-Pine Bluff is 2-4 on the season, with losses coming at the hands of Illinois, Tennessee State, Wichita State and Arkansas State and with wins over Philander Smith College and Arkansas Baptist.
Senior forward Jewel Owens leads the Lady Golden Lions in scoring with 13.3 points per game, while junior forward Chekesha Johnson leads UAPB on the boards with 7.8 rebounds per contest.
UAPB coach Angela Daniels is 6-27 in her third season with the Lady Golden Lions. Daniels' overall coaching record is 51-114 in seven seasons.
"We want to pick ourselves up and go from here," said Ross, who put her team through two practices Monday. "It's all about handling adversity, and we believe we will do that. We need to defend our home court and keep playing. We're happy to have two games at home this week and to be able to practice the other days. We'll keep working until we get it right."
Lady Rebs play at home twice this week
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