Rams feel at home in the Dome
The Bluefield women’s basketball team is unbeaten at home so far this season.
January 16, 2013
For the third year in a row, the Bluefield women’s basketball team has jumped out to a winning start in the 2012-2013 campaign.
This year is a little different, though. The Rams (11-5, 4-4 Mid-South Conference) made the jump from NAIA Division II to Division I. With the upgrade, they moved into one of the nation’s toughest conferences.
The Rams were voted last in the 11-team Mid-South Conference Preseason Coaches poll, but it did not take long for head coach Melissa Baker’s team to gain the attention of the league. They upset No. 6 Georgetown in the first MSC game on Nov. 15 in the Dome.
Including that win against the Tigers, the Rams are 7-0 in their own arena this season, and they have posted a 4-0 home record against MSC teams.
Baker said the Rams have a responsibility to uphold when they play on the Bluefield campus.
“I think our team takes a lot of pride and accountability in this being our home court,” said Baker. “We have to protect it. Having the crowd behind them and having fans and people that they love and care about here to support them really helps when we play on at home.”
One of the advantages of playing at home is a feel for how to shoot in the Dome that visiting teams do not have.
“Them going through the daily routines and being where they are comfortable, where they are used to, and playing on the court that we are used to makes them more comfortable,” said Baker. “A lot of courts that we play at are big arenas or their backdrops are different or their rims are different. Of course all of that comes into account when it comes to us shooting.”
The Rams are shooting a respectable 46 percent in home games this year, while visiting opponents have gone 36 percent in field goal attempts. That advantage has helped Bluefield win their home games by an average of more than 19 points per game.
“We don’t expect the refs to be any different or anything being at home,” junior guard Teqa McNeal said. “We are more comfortable because it is home and we have that support here.”
The Rams continue to win games at home even while playing with a short bench. They only had one reserve player in their 64-47 win against UVA-Wise on Jan. 3, and two subs in a 79-54 win two days later against Pikeville.
Bluefield has been able to continue to push the tempo and play tough defense without much in-game rest.
“A lot of it comes down to the players’ hard work and dedication in preseason and over break,” said Baker. “They understood that if we want to run and we want to push the ball, we have got to be in great shape. Our core of who we are was being in great shape. Having less of a bench is actually challenging to us. The girls have really stepped up and shown that they can play 37 to 38 minutes.”
The message from Baker has certainly not been lost on the players.
“I have to thank MJ for getting us in shape early,” said McNeal. “We are a solid team that is in shape and has heart. We want to keep doing what we have been doing and have players that produce.”
The Rams are on the road for their next two games, but will look to continue their home dominance against No. 10 Campbellsville on Jan. 24 and will host Lindsey Wilson on Jan. 26.
Bluefield has a total of six home games remaining in the regular season.