Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Bowie State women go retro

Strong season has Bulldogs thinking about first national tournament berth in nearly a decade

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The Bowie State University women’s basketball program has gone retro. Ten years ago, the Bulldogs were the elite program in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, winning three consecutive league titles from 1997-1999 and making three trips to the NCAA Division II tournament.

Bulldogs’ third-year coach Doug Roberts was an assistant with the program in the late 1990s and has a sense of what it is like to be at the top.

Coming off of a successful 2006-07 season, in which the Bulldogs’ had a 16-12 record, Roberts knew that this could be the year the team made a breakthrough.

‘‘We wanted to be in the top three of every statistical category in the CIAA,” Roberts said at Monday’s practice. ‘‘I wanted for the team to execute when we have to and play intelligent basketball at the right times.”

The Bulldogs are currently near the top in the conference in scoring (second, 71.4 points per game), scoring defense (second, 57.8 ppg.), scoring margin (first, 13.6 ppg.), free-throw percentage (third, 64.9 percent), field goal percentage (first, 40.7), opponent field goal percentage (second, 35.2), rebounding (first, 46.9 per game), opponents rebounding (second, 37), steals (first, 13.9 per game) and offensive rebounding (second, 19.18).

All of the statistics add up to the Bulldogs being the CIAA’s best team at 13-4 overall (8-4 in CIAA) and leading the CIAA East Division by four games with nine games remaining at the start of this week.

Roberts said the biggest difference between this season and last is that the Bulldogs have learned to control their emotions, adding that he has seen his team rattled just once this season.

Several county residents have played a big role in the Bulldogs’ success. Sophomore Temple Hills resident Bianca Lee is the team’s top scorer at 14.8 points per game to go along with 4.8 rebounds.

Gwynn Park High School graduate, junior Markeya Watson, has been the Bulldogs’ most consistent player during her three years with the program and is averaging 8.8 points and a team-high seven rebounds per game.

‘‘We’re trying to be the best in everything,” Watson said. ‘‘I think this year our team chemistry has gotten a lot better. We’ve progressed by learning each other’s games, which adds to that chemistry and makes it a lot easier to learn quicker.”

The team has not lost at home this season (6-0) and hopes to continue that trend with seven of its final nine contests in Bowie.

BSU men aim for regional

Despite having a 13-7 record (2-3 in CIAA), the Bowie State men’s team still has its eye on an at-large berth in the Division II South Atlantic Region Tournament. The Bulldogs feel like they have a good resume to back that claim.

Bowie State — ranked No. 10 in the latest South Atlantic Region poll — have quality victories against Cheyney, Holy Family (No. 9 in the Northeast Region) and Edinboro. The Bulldogs still have a game remaining against current CIAA leader Saint Augustine’s (No. 8 in South Atlantic Region), and second-place Elizabeth City State that could add even more quality victories to their resume.

The Bulldogs endured inconsistency earlier in the season, especially around the holidays, when the team lost five of eight games.

With a team loaded with former Division I players, Bulldogs’ coach Luke D’Alessio quickly diagnosed the team’s problem.

‘‘Some of our guys are learning to share the ball,” D’Alessio said. ‘‘We have a collection of guys who were the best players on their teams at some point in high school. A lot of guys are in their last seasons and trying to make a name for themselves.”

Perhaps the biggest factor in the Bulldogs’ success has been their balance. No longer does the team rely on one big scorer as it did last season with Division II All-American Gail Goodrich.

Five of the team’s players average more than nine points per game with four averaging double figures. One of those players is sophomore guard Christian Jackson (10.3 ppg.), a Suitland High grad who leads the team in 3-point field goals (34) and 3-point shooting percentage (47 percent).

‘‘Now I think we’re buying into what coach wants us to do and working the inside-out game,” Jackson said. ‘‘A lot of guys have to double us inside and by them keying on those guys that has caused things to open up on the perimeter. We have a legit six guys who can score 20 on a given night, but we’ve learned to sacrifice and have focused on doing a lot of things that are for the best of the team.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.