Arkansas-Pine Bluff head coach Nate Kilbert will have to keep his emotions in check tonight when the Lady Lions host Mississippi Valley State at H.O. Clemmons Arena. Kilbert was the head coach at MVSU for 11 seasons before accepting the head coaching position at UAPB last May.
“It is going to be an emotional game for Kilbert because he coached there,” assistant head coach Danny Evans said. “He will be playing against kids that he had in recruiting and coaching.
“He played there as well. It is going to be a high emotional game for sure.”
Kilbert is the reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference coach of the year after leading MVSU to the 2011-12 SWAC Championship and a berth in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Kilbert, a 49-year-old native of Sallis, Miss., has more than 24 years of coaching experience, including an 11-year stint as MVSU head coach, his first stint as a head coach.
“We are ready for it,” Evans said. “The team is working, maturing and getting ready for the SWAC season.
“They know the importance of the conference season.”
After UAPB won just one game in their last two seasons, Kilbert and his staff have already improved the program as the Golden Lions have notched four wins this season, including back-to-back wins over the University of New Orleans.
“Obviously, we are playing better,” Evans said. “I can’t put a specific thing on it. Coach Kilbert has won the SWAC and he has had some good teams.
“The girls have bought in and that is going to help with the wins.”
UAPB overcame a season-high rebounding performance by New Orleans to claim a 63-54 win last Friday at Lakefront Arena.
It was the second victory by UAPB (4-7) over UNO in a week. The Golden Lions defeated the Lady Privateers in Pine Bluff on Dec. 21.
The Golden Lions’ lead reached a game high of 13 points at the 5:18 mark before UNO went on a 9-1 run with 2:04 remaining to pull within five points at 56-51.
The Golden Lions extended their lead back out to 11 points with 34 seconds remaining on the clock to seal the game.
“We have two good freshman that have helped us,” Evans said. “A few new people added to the puzzle that has helped as well.
“The new system has worked for our benefit.”
Evans said while winning games in the regular season is important, it won’t mean much if the Lady Lions can’t win the SWAC games.
For UAPB, one of the main differences between this season and last has been the addition of freshmen Cassidy Wright and Aubre Mitchell.
“We brought [Cassidy] in from Michigan,” Evans said. “She is still a freshman and I don’t want to put too much on her.
“Everything she has done up to now doesn’t really matter, I want to see how she responds to a conference game.”
Wright scored 16 points in the second game against UNO.
Evans said another good addition to the team has been Marion Thompson from Chicago. Thompson averages about four points and four rebounds a game.
MVSU ended its non-conference schedule Sunday with a 63-48 loss to Charlotte in the consolation game of the Holiday & Hoops Tournament held at the GSU Sports Arena.
Alia Frank led the Devilettes (3-8) with 14 points and five rebounds while Jasmyne Sanders added 10 points, accounting for nearly half of the Devilettes’ 21 bench points.
MVSU shot 37.5 percent and made 3 of 4 free throws.
UAPB will host MVSU tonight beginning at 5 p.m.
“Hopefully we can play better at home,” Evans said. “Got to win at home. We can control our own destiny if you can win your home games.”