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Angela Harris and Dorian Branch: culture at UH women's hoops has changed

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November 1, 2018 -- 9:13 a.m.

Dorian Branch is one of the leaders on the Houston Cougars' women's basketball team. Branch is about to begin her third season on the squad; and, she's one of the vets on the team.

A few weeks ago, Branch (and teammate Angela Harris) said she's noticed a positive change in the team's culture. During the last few weeks, the team has held more practices and participated in two scrimmages (vs Oklahoma State and Mississippi State).

As the team is set to begin the 2018-'19 season Tuesday, November 6, at Cal, Branch says she's noticed the intensity of the practices has picked up.

"In the last two weeks, I think practice has really picked up," said Branch. "We've picked up the pace on defense. We've been learning more offenses. We've been working against a lot of zones because that's what a lot of people are going to do to us."

Branch says teammate Alyssa Okoene had a solid showing in the scrimmage against Mississippi State. Okoene, 6'3" transfer from the University of North Carolina and North Shore High School, is expected to be a key contributor to the team.

"In our scrimmage, this past weekend, she (Okoene) played really aggressive the whole game," Branch commented. "Myyah (6'2" Myyah West) was hurt this weekend; so, Alyssa got a lot more playing time. She played a lot of minutes. She was aggressive the whole time. She rebounded well. She made her lay-ups; finished at the rim. Everything that we need down low."

In mid-October, the Coogs were picked to finish third (behind nationally-ranked UConn and USF) in the American Athletic Conference.

Branch is pleased with the third place pick; but, she, nor the team, is content with the prediction.

"I think it's a good step for us," Branch mentioned. "It's a good start. That just shows what the other coaches think about us in the conference which is a good thing.

"It's a positive note; but, we still have to use that as fuel to be as good as we were last year and better (this year)."

During the summer, Head Coach Ronald Hughey mentioned he set reaching the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament as a goal for this year's team.

Though people outside of the Houston women's basketball program have cast a side-eye at that goal, Branch is not deterred.

"Before the season, we came up with the goal of the Sweet 16," Branch acknowledged. "Since we got that goal, that just makes us work harder. Look at the teams that make it to the Sweet 16 often and know what they do; how hard they work on a daily basis; and just do what they do and do it better so that we can reach that."

Cal, the Coogs' opponent to begin the 2018-'19 season has been picked to finish 4th in the PAC-12 by the conference coaches as well as the media who covers the conference.

Cal is led by 6'4" senior Kristine Anigwe. Anigwe averaged 16.7 points and 8.8 boards per game last season. Cal has three starters returning (including Anigwe) from last year's NCAA Tournament team.

Branch says the Coogs have begun preparing for Cal.

"We've been working on how their guards get open," Branch said. "What their posts are gonna do. We haven't made the game plan, yet; but, we've been working on things that they do often."

The Coogs' game at Cal is set to tip-off at 9 p.m. Central Time. Cal's Live Stream will show the game.

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