Women's basketball starts season 5-0

Pat Hickey

For the first time in more than a decade, the USI women’s basketball team opened the season with five straight wins.

If history is any way of predicting what lies ahead, the Eagles appear to be in good shape. The last three times USI has begun 5-0, they have gone on to win the conference title and earn a berth into the Division II tournament.

But recent history has also taught the Eagles not to dwell too long on what happens. Last year, the team came out of the gates nearly just as quickly before a lack of experience caught up with them.


“I think we understand our offense better,” junior guard Ariel Barnes said. “We’ve played together now for a year and know what to expect from each other.”

Over the weekend at the USI Thanksgiving Classic, the Eagles added a pair of Midwest Region victories to its postseason resume with wins over Notre Dame College (Ohio) and Lake Superior State University (Mich.).

“Obviously, there were a lot of positives to take away,” USI women’s basketball head coach Rick Stein said. “Holiday tournaments are always fun, especially when you host, because we had a lot of the girls’ families come in, their parents and grandparents, to see them play. So that was pretty cool.”

USI has outscored its opponents by a margin of 23 points so far this season with an average of 81 points per game.

Barnes is averaging more than four assists per game, with the remaining starters all in double digits scoring. In Saturday’s 96-64 win over NDC, she recorded the first double-double of her career with 10 points and 10 assists.

The Eagles will host Mid-Continent University (Ky.) at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Physical Activities Center. With just two games in December before conference play begins, the Eagles will have to stay focused while also studying for exams and spending time with family during the holidays.

“Last year, when we started conference games, I think it was a bit of an eye-opener,” junior guard Stephanie Carpenter said. “Knowing how tough this league is keeps us motivated because we know what we have to do.”