The Rebels will have played Big Ten teams in three of their last four contests. They faced Northwestern in the Bahamas Tournament and beat the Wildcats 61-58 on Nov. 24. Then at home in their last outing on Dec. 2, the Rebels drubbed Illinois 75-50 to move to 2-0 against Big Ten teams this season.
The Nittany Lions of Coach Rene Portland bring a 6-5 mark into the contest, and Ross hopes her team is up for another challenge from a major conference once again.
"By playing the schedule we play, our weaknesses get exposed and that's a good thing," Ross said, her team standing at 6-2 on the season. "That gives us a chance to acknowledge them and go to work on them and get better at them. This will be the third Big Ten team we've played in four games. We're playing them at home. It's a battle to defend the home court. It's a battle to defend our conference."
Ross said she is pleased with certain aspects of her 6-2 squad. The Rebels lost to No. 1 ranked and defending national champion Maryland in the Bahamas Tournament and also lost in double overtime at Rice.
It seems the Rice game still sticks with Ross, and while she'd love to win them all, a 7-1 record right now is what she realistically appears to wish her team had achieved so far.
"We left one on the table in Houston," she said of the loss to Rice. "Our team is a team that we've seen signs of being very good. I don't think we're as close to being as good as we can be, which is exciting to me. I know we've got some areas we have to continue to address to become the team we can be."
Ross said certain areas need to step up if the Rebels are to meet their expectations.
"I'd like to see our post game become a little bit more stable," she said. "I'd like to see our defensive rebounding be a consistent presence. I want us to understand that if we don't box out, then teams will make us pay. We have good three-point shooting but it can improve. The way we play we'll always get to the free throw line a lot. We want to become a team that always shoots over 70 percent (from the line), and we'll continue to try to do just that."
Ross' Rebels are 4-0 at home, and the veteran head coach always talks about defending the home court. That's what they get a shot at doing Sunday afternoon against the Nittany Lions.
"We're not as good as we can be," Ross said. "We've got to coach them up and get them playing as well as they can be by January. We have to prepare and be diligent, and if we can do that we'll have a chance."
The UM women's team has a quick turnaround after playing Penn State as they play at Rutgers of the Big East Conference Tuesday night.
UM women's hoops team hosts Penn State Sunday
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