Sam Houston State University women’s basketball is off to a record-breaking start with a perfect 8-0 record against Southland Conference opponents. The Bearkats have seen a massive turn-around under head coach Ravon Justice, outscoring conference foes 657-484 and winning games by an average of 21.6 points.
SHSU not only has the firepower from Justice, but the team has scattered multiple players throughout the conference record books this season. Sophomore forward Amber Leggett currently leads the conference in points scored (263) and is top-20 in total rebounds this year. Leggett had a career high 26 points against the University of Oklahoma.
“Right now, [Leggett] is one of our captains,” Justice said. “Her role is leadership. I think the thing that she brings that is irreplaceable right now is just being energetic and making sure she can get us through some things on the offensive and defensive end.”
The Bearkats also have two players in the top-10 in assists—senior guard Jenniffer Oramas (67) and junior guard Faith Cook (52). Not having a star player is something that has worked well for the Bearkats so far this year. With a different statistical leader in almost every category, it allows for more than one or two standout players to help win a game.
“It keeps us honest,” Justice said. “If somebody doesn’t come and do their job then we’re not very successful. It makes sure that every day we are getting better and practicing.”
Justice took over the team at the beginning of the 2018-19 season when an impressive turnaround garnered her the SLC Coach of the Year award. Her 16-13 record was the Bearkats’ first winning season since the 2012-13 season. This is also the best start in her career as a head coach.
“It just gives us an opportunity to kind of see how we are progressing as a program,” Justice said. “Rather than taking steps back you want to be going in the right direction, and I think that it’s given us an opportunity to keep progressing.”
The Bearkats are averaging 24.8 personal fouls per game. Leggett and junior forward Courtney Cleveland have 61 fouls on the year. In a 95-71 loss to the University of Oklahoma Dec. 15, the Bearkats had a team-high 33 fouls that led to 24 points off of free throws.
“We just have to stop fouling people right now,” Justice said. “It’s just something we have to get better at.”
With the program heading in a new direction, the team is grinding and coming together with seven different players averaging 20-plus minutes per game.
“We all have one common goal and that’s to win a ring,” Cook said. “That’s why we always stick together, play every game as a team and get the win.”
As the season continues, the Bearkats will strive to stay undefeated and claim the top spot in the SLC Tournament March 12-15 in Katy.
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