In what should be no surprise to anyone who lives in Southern Ohio, the Shawnee State women’s basketball team is off to yet another great start to their season. The second overall team in the NAIA Division II preseason poll Bears are firing on all cylinders, winning each of their first five games by an average of 36.4 points per game which includes wins over Kentucky Christian University, University of Northwestern Ohio, Bluefield College, Point Park University, and West Virginia Institute of Technology.
“We’re playing pretty well right now” said Shawnee women’s head coach Jeff Nickel, “We’ve got a couple games coming up this weekend at Asbury in a tournament down there, and then we’ve got ‘The Rotary’ next weekend, our competition will be pretty stiff, but I’m pretty happy with where we’re at so far this season.”
In the Bears most recent game, senior returning NAIA first team all-American Ashton Lovely had a season high in points with 33 as Shawnee shot 53.8% from the field as a team and 40% from behind the arc in their contest with WVU Tech.
“She’s averaging about 22 ppg right now and is playing really well for us,” said Nickel when speaking of his senior all-American, “We’ve got four kids right now averaging double figures in points, and a couple of kids who just outside of double figures. We’ve had really good balance so far. I still think we’re trying find ourselves a little bit, trying figure out what we’re good at and what we need to improve it being early in the season. But I’m really happy with where we’re at and the progress that we’re making.”
The Bears starting off the season 5-0 is a great accomplishment, but the road to improving on that undefeated start begins to be a bit challenging as the month of December approaches.
As Nickel mentioned, the Bears will travel to Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky this weekend to take on the Asbury Eagles Friday night at 6:00 p.m., as well as Oakland City University Saturday morning with a noon start.
And if the road forward didn’t get hard enough there, Shawnee will go up against 12th ranked MidAmerica Nazarene University and 5th ranked Freed-Hardeman University next weekend in Jackson, Tennesee at the NAIA Invitational Classic. If the name Freed-Hardman doesn’t ring any bells, the Lions of FHU are the current defending national champions at the NAIA Division II level, meaning that Shawnee will get a good test early in the season that should very well prepare them if they hope to make a run in this season’s NAIA tournament.
“I think it comes back to working on the things that we need to improve” said Nickel when asked on how the Bears can keep up their momentum through the next few weeks, “We’re still trying to evolve offensively, trying to utilize all of the weapons we have at our disposal and make sure we’re maximizing our talent on that end. I think defensively we’ve still got some things that we can improve on when we play the better teams like Freed-Hardeman’s, when we play the MidAmerica Nazarene’s. When we play those high level NAIA teams, we’re going to have to be performing at our best because that’s what they’re going to play. Adjusting to that level of competition, being able to function at a high level, those are things that are very important. Going into these games this weekend, this is how we want to be able to perform and be able to keep it there every single game.”
Tipoff between the Bears and the Asbury Eagles is set for Friday at 6:00 p.m. on the campus of Asbury University.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT