The University of West Georgia women's basketball survived a strange homestand that saw its bench dwindle down to an army of one by the time all was said and done.
Even so, the Wolves were able to salvage a two-game split after their roster was decimated by illness and injury by rebounding with a win over Montevallo on Saturday afternoon in a game where they only dressed six players.
The good news for UWG head coach Scott Groninger is three more players are back in the fold as the squad makes way for a two-game Gulf South Conference swing into The Magnolia State, beginning with a 6:30 p.m. tip against Delta State today at Walter Sillers Coliseum in Cleveland, Mississippi.
Junior guard Kilah Nixon and freshman forward Jayda Dooley will suit up tonight after being out due to illness, while senior forward D'Asia Cain is also back in the mix after being sidelined due to injury. Daisha Terry (ankle) and Terrianna Cave (knee) are still out, giving Groninger nine healthy players for the road trip, which also includes a 3 p.m. matchup with Mississippi College on Saturday in Clinton.
Groninger thought the team dealt with the adversity as best it could over the past week, but he is also feeling much better about his team's outlook with the added personnel.
"It was weird, but you just don't have a choice. I thought they handled it fine. Now getting ready to get on a bus and drive six hours into Cleveland, Mississippi, that's a tough place to go play," Groninger said.
The Wolves (11-9, 7-6 GSC) will square off against a familiar face on the Delta State sidelines as former UWG head coach Craig Roden is in fourth season in charge of the DSU program.
With over 350 career GSC victories, Roden is the graybeard among coaches in the league, and Groninger said you can always expect a 40-minute donnybrook when facing Delta State (8-11, 6-7).
"Just a great defensive team. We're going to have to play well on both sides of the ball. We're going to have to score the ball. Teams that score the ball against them and get in the 60s usually are successful and that's our goal is to get in the 60s," Groninger said.
Delta State ranks dead-last in the league in scoring at 53.2 points per game, but it features the No. 2 scoring defense in yielding only 55.5 points per outing this season.
The Lady Statesmen are powered by the 1-2 punch of junior guard Alondrea Rush and senior guard Takisha Jordan, who rank eighth and 11th in the GSC in scoring, respectively, at 14.9 and 13.4 points per game.
"They're definitely a guard-oriented team, as far as offensively. Rush is having a really nice year and leading them in scoring. She's capable of having big numbers, but she's also had some games where she hasn't shown up. We've just got to do a good job on her and just hope that we're going to rebound the ball and pound the thing inside on them and play well," Groninger said.
The Wolves will go from one extreme to the other in Saturday's Senior Day showdown against the Lady Choctaws (6-13, 2-11), who are led by their frontcourt trio of 5-foot-11 senior forward Kelley Allen, 6-foot-2 freshman center Lauran Sheriff and sophomore forward Ieisha Lacey.
Allen averages 13.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while Sheriff is coming off her third collegiate double-double in Saturday's setback to Delta State, where she scored 11 points with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Sheriff ranks second on the team in scoring at 10.6 points per clip and Lacey is right behind her at 10.3 points per game.
With only seven games remaining in the regular season, the margin for error gets smaller and smaller with each passing week. The Wolves are currently in a three-way tie for fifth place in the GSC standings, while Delta State is only one game behind them, but would be on the outside looking in if the GSC Tournament started today in ninth place.
So while nothing will be settled in regards to seeding for a few more weeks, West Georgia can bolster its tournament hopes by grinding out two more wins over the next three days before returning to Carrollton for a three-game homestand.
"Every game from here on out you can either submit yourself into a real solid playoff situation or put yourself in question," Groninger said. "For us, we're just trying to play well. We're not talking a whole lot about the playoffs and what this game would do. I think they're smart enough to figure that out. I just want to go up there and focus on playing well on both sides of the ball."