The following are Coach Carol Ross' comments prior to her Ole Miss Lady Rebel basketball team's game at Alabama Thursday night. The Lady Rebels are 12-10 overall and 2-7 in Southeastern Conference play.
Ross: We have five (regular season) games left, and we're in a fight for our postseason lives. Obviously we have to look at it one game at a time. Alabama is up next on the road. That starts this five-game stretch. We've got to find a way to win.
Q: Certainly playing at Alabama (8-14 overall and, like Ole Miss, 2-7 in SEC play) gives you a chance to win another game.
Ross: We go into every game thinking we can win. We always have and we always will. In the SEC on the road, you have to go play well and whip somebody. There's nobody that in our league doesn't defend their homecourt. There's nobody in our league that doesn't play with a lot of pride. There's nobody in our league that's an easy trip. Alabama has played well enough, and they're trying to find some wins like a lot of us are. Defensively they're good. Rebounding they are one of the top four teams in the league. If you defend and rebound, then you've got a shot. So they've got a shot. They are learning a new system under a new head coach this year. Stephany Smith has done a good job and is doing a good job. It will be another grind it out game on the road, and we'll try to sneak out of their with a win.
Q: Have you been able to tell in losing these games if your team is actually getting better?
Ross: We've been able to take some positives out of all of the games. We haven't played terribly in any of them. The problem is we haven't won many of them. Losing overshadows everything you do. Our struggles have mostly been offensively, whether it's shooting foul shots or shooting free throws. We've gotten better in some areas. We're still trying to balance shortening the game with playing to our strengths. It's a wicked combination of do we open it up and play as fast we can, because that is how we had success early in the year. Or do we try to slow the game down and try to win that way. So we're still not there in terms of where we need to be. We're not a team that knows exactly what we need to do from one game to the next. We've had to change how we do things almost every time out. It makes for a little bit of a team that is still searching for all the right buttons. As a coach, it's my job to push them. Hopefully we can continue to try to clear that up.
Q: How have the players handled losing this season, and the coaches for that matter?
Ross: Players probably better than coaches. Young people are more resilient and have the ability to bounce back quicker. I suffer with losses. I'm not used to it and have never been good at it, whether I was running around at Oakland (Miss.) Elementary School in fifth grade or as the head coach at Ole Miss. I've just never learned how to lose gracefully, and I doubt I'll ever master it if I haven't done it by now. It's tough, but in this league you have to bounce back. Our players are a light-hearted bunch, but they suffer too. There's no question about it. My job is to try to help these player experience success, and when you don't feel you are doing a very good job of that, it makes it difficult. I take a lot of pride in my responsibility as a head coach.
Q: Offensively what have been the biggest drawbacks for your team?
Ross: We're definitely struggling to have a consistent presence on the outside. We've just about given everybody a shot at that two guard spot. We moved Ashley Awkward from the one to the two. We let Lindsay Roy have a start. Ashley Johnson has had most of the starts. Carla Bartee started against Tennessee. LaTanya Jones has had opportunities at the two. We don't have a consistent presence there now as we did early in the year when A.J. (Ashley Johnson) was playing better. Our inside players are always going to be challenged. They're smaller than everybody else in the league. They have to find ways to neutralize these big kids they're going up against and still find ways to produce. This league is filled with teams that have great players. We had some things going early, and we don't have it going now. We need to get that back.
*** After playing at Alabama Thursday night, the Lady Rebs host Auburn Sunday at 2 p.m. in Oxford.
Carol Ross looks ahead to Bama game
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