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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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Angela Harris and Dorian Branch: culture at UH women's hoops has changed
October 12, 2018 -- 7:39 a.m.
When Angela Harris and Dorian Branch were seniors in high school, the Houston Cougars women's basketball team had a 6-24 season. When Branch and Harris were freshmen at UH, the Coogs finished the 2016-'17 season with a 12-19 record.
Last season, in their sophomore year at UH, the Coogs won 20 games and finished the 2017-'18 season with a 20-12 record and a trip to the WNIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament).
As the 2018-'19 season approaches, expectations have risen. The bar has been raised; and, people expect the Coogs to win. Plus, more importantly, the Coogs expect to win.
What's changed in just a few years? Harris says the team no longer has disciplinary problems; and, Branch says the team's mindset on defense has changed a great deal.
"It's changed drastically," Harris stated. "From my freshman year, to last year, to this year, you can see the culture change.
"My freshman I wouldn't necessarily say we were bad; but, we weren't a very good team," Harris continued. "We had some disciplinary issues. I have to say from that year to this year there has been no disciplinary issues. We don't have any problems within the team anymore. Everybody in that locker room is ready to come down here and play everyday. I can't say we had that (mentality) my first year; so, it's definitely changed from my freshman to my junior year."
"I think the program has changed because, of course, we're winning now," Branch commented. "I think our defensive mindset has really changed. We have really been working together as a team on offense and defense; and, I think the whole mentality on and off the court has changed for the better and that's made us a better team."
The positive turnaround in the Coogs' culture will receive national exposure in December when the Coogs face the top 15 ranked Texas A&M Aggies, Thursday, December 6, at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, inside the new $60-million Fertitta Center. The match-up will be the first women's college basketball game inside Fertitta Center. Harris is excited for the opportunity.
"I'm excited. I've been in Houston since I was a kid," Harris said. "For us to get a new arena, it's great. We needed one for a long time. For us to have a new arena to play, for us to be the first women's team to play there is incredible."
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