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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Southern Methodist limping into WAC contest

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

They've got quick shooters, 3-point threats and a tenacious defense.

 •  SMU at Hawai'i

• When: 7 tonight

• Where: Stan Sheriff Center

• Admission: $7 adults, $6 seniors, $4 children ages 4-18 and UH students

• Parking: $3

But the one thing Southern Methodist doesn't have — and desperately needs — is depth.

Especially against a streaking University of Hawai'i team that doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

The Mustangs (6-8, 1-3 WAC) meet the Wahine (9-2, 2-0) tonight at 7 at the Stan Sheriff Center, hoping to snap Hawai'i's five-game winning streak.

With just eight players.

SMU's injury list is nearly as long as its roster: Freshman post Keely Cox underwent surgery on Monday to repair a torn ACL in her right knee and won't be back this season; sophomore forward Alisa Wright is out for the season after rupturing a tendon in her left ankle prior to the first game; and sophomore guard Shanta Ramdhanny is sidelined after sustaining a sprained knee earlier this season.

"Our roster has been a little depleted at the moment, and that's been part of our problem," SMU coach Rhoda Rompola said. "We don't have that consistency. We don't know who's going to practice today."

The Mustangs captured their first conference win Saturday against Boise State, finally shooting over 40 percent from the field for the first time in four games.

The lack of depth on the bench has hurt the Mustangs, who have used only eight players in the past six contests.

"Right now they don't have a lot of depth," UH coach Vince Goo said. "They're waiting for people to come off the injury list. But they play a power game and aggressive defense."

Playing conservatively, especially on defense, hasn't helped the Mustangs.

"Our healthy players were worried about conserving their energy by the end of the game," Rompola said. "We got down early and exerted so much energy on coming back. But against Boise State, we couldn't afford to conserve and it worked for us."

In their 62-56 victory over the Broncos, the Mustangs snapped a three-game losing streak and held their opponents to 32.1 percent shooting from the field at halftime. More than a conference win, the victory was a confidence boost for the struggling Mustangs, who have more talent than the statistics show.

"In defense of our players, it's hard to get that consistency and chemistry when you don't know who's going to practice," Rompola said. "You have to go with what you have. This was the one year we couldn't afford any injuries, and it's been the worst year for injuries. It's been one of those years you just have to give it your best shot and hopefully build for the future."

But the Mustangs, a team without seniors, are not without offensive threats.

Three players have scoring averages in double figures. Sophomore guard Andrea Cossey leads the team with 12.5 points per game.

"They can be explosive on offense," Goo said. "They've got some people who can score a bunch of points quickly. They're very athletic."

Hawai'i has to contain SMU's quick offense, which shouldn't be a problem. The Wahine are allowing just 58.9 points per game and have held their opponents to just 33.5 percent shooting from the field.

And now 11 games into the season, the Wahine's offense has picked up momentum. Junior center Christen Roper dominates in the paint on both ends of the court. She couples her 42 blocks in 11 games with an average of 12.5 points per game.

"Roper is a different player to me," Rompola said. "She's got the hook shot, the left-handed shot, good body control. She's a presence inside the paint."

It comes back to depth, she said.

"They can rotate post players in and out and keep those legs fresh," she added. "You can't stop that high-low game."

Free throws: Freshman forward Kim Willoughby was admitted to a local hospital Wednesday night with severe abdominal pains and will likely sit out tonight's game against SMU. She is listed as doubtful for the Wahine's game against Louisiana Tech on Sunday. Freshman forward Jade Abele practiced for the first time yesterday since sustaining a stress fracture on her right foot that had her sidelined the last six games. With Willoughby out, Abele will likely get some playing time at post, relieving Natasja Allen or Christen Roper. "Gain one, lose one," said UH head coach Vince Goo. The Honolulu Advertiser will be giving out free basketball-shaped antennae balls to the first 1,000 fans who attend tonight's game.