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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Ronald Hughey: "You still have to play the games."
October 10, 2018
The Houston Cougars women's basketball team enjoyed a successful 2017-'2018 season finishing with a 20-12 record. Houston's 20 wins last season were the most wins since the 2010-2011 season.
Last year's success has raised expectations for the 2018-'19 season; and, the coaching staff and the players have embraced the higher expectations.
Houston junior forward Dorian Branch believes this year's team can surpass last year's 20 wins.
"I think we can definitely get above 20 wins this year as long as we work together the whole year; never get down on ourselves; continue to work hard; follow the game plan; and follow our principles," Branch said.
In fact, Houston Head Coach Ronald Hughey set a goal for the Coogs to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament this season.
"We're looking forward to it; and, a lot of people won't say this; but, I am pushing the team to get to the Sweet Sixteen this year," Hughey said in July. "That's the destination for us."
Houston junior guard Angela Harris believes reaching the Sweet 16 is attainable.
"Our goal right now is Sweet 16. I think it's attainable," Harris acknowledged. "Being one of the returners and one of the leaders of this team, I think we have it. We definitely it. We added Alyssa (6'2" Alyssa Okoene transfer from North Carolina; eligible this season). I think with her and a little bit more bench depth we can definitely make that dream come true."
Last season, Angela Harris averaged 14.9 points per game. Harris led the team in three-pointers made (85) and finished second (by one) in assists (114).
AD (Harris' nickname) says the team has discussed being "the hunted" instead of one of "the hunters" this season.
"Yes. We've definitely talked about that," AD continued. "They've scheduled us the way we want to be scheduled from the beginning: we want to play all the top teams (in the conference). Of course, teams are going to come here and on the road to try and play us the hardest because of our record from last year.
"We won 20 games; and, there's some big expectations for us this year," Harris said. "So, teams are definitely going to play us hard. And, we know that."
Houston's 2018-2019 schedule is definitely daunting. Houston's non-conference schedule includes match-ups against Texas A&M from the Southeastern Conference; at Cal (Pac-12); home games against ACC teams Georgia Tech and Boston College; and at Florida Gulf Coast (Tournament team last season).
In conference play in the American Athletic Conference, Houston faces UConn and South Florida two times each.
"I'm really, really excited about the conference this year," Coach Hughey said. "So many teams lost so many kids that were able to score and play that everybody is waiting to see what's left in the cupboard."
Hughey continued, "I just talked to Jose down at South Florida (USF Head Coach Jose Fernandez); and, he talked about me having all my kids back and 75 to 80 percent of the scoring.
"But, you still have to play the games," Hughey stated. "You have to play the games; and, one year is different from the next year. We're just looking forward to being the best that we can be and seeing what everybody else has, too."
Houston's season opener is Tuesday, November 6, on the road, against Cal.
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