Searching for chemistry: Injuries leave Lady Lions' lineup for opener unsettled

With so many players missing practice due to various of injuries, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff women’s basketball team might struggle to find team chemistry early as they host Philander Smith College at 6 Friday night at H.O. Clemmons Arena for its season opener.

“I wish I knew what to expect,” UAPB head coach Nate Kilbert said. “We haven’t had a chance to have any chemistry.

“We don’t know who is even going to start. It is still in the air.”

Kilbert said Friday’s game will be used as more of a practice for the Lady Lions in order to get ready for Tuesday’s game against Marquette.

“It will help us prepare us for Marquette and see who should be in the starting lineup and who could be used off the bench,” Kilbert said.

Following their home opener, the Lady Lions will be the on the road for six straight games beginning with Marquette. In that span, UAPB will play teams such as Iowa, Xavier, Nebraska and Texas Tech.

Their next home game is not until Dec. 17 when UAPB host Talladega College from Alabama.

“I don’t know where we are going to be or who we will have healthy,” Kilbert said.

UAPB lost five seniors to graduation including four of its top scorers. Chi Chi Okwumabua led the Lady Lions with 12 points a game and Lakendra Marsh had 11.3 points a game.

Sophomore Cassidy Wright, who missed this week of practice due to an injury, averaged about 10 points a game last season.

Possible starters in tonight’s game include senior Christina Lasane and newcomer Mollie Campbell at the forward position.

“After (Thursday) we will get a better understanding and know where they stand,” Kilbert said.

Lasane averaged 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a game last year.

UAPB finished last with an overall record of 13-18 and 7-11 in the conference. The Lady Lions made it to the quarterfinals of the SWAC Tournament before falling 69-55 to Mississippi Valley State.

The Lady Lions were picked to finish sixth this season in the SWAC preseason poll. Southern is expected to finish first.

Philander Smith (3-0) has already won three games this season — averaging about 80 points a game. On Tuesday, Philander Smith defeated Central Baptist 79-46.

“They score a lot of points, they score in the 80s,” Kilbert said. “They get up and down the floor and it makes you wonder how fast they are.

“They play mostly small ball and it makes them a lot quicker. It is kind of scary.

“I don’t care who they are playing against, averaging about 80 points is scary.”

Philander Smith is led by Kynsha Geans, who in the first two games scored 15 and 16 points on 12 of 21 shooting including five three-pointers. Caryan Jones and Shanyla Love average about nine points a game.

“We have to take care of the basketball, rebound the ball and don’t fall to their pressure,” Kilbert said. “I think we will be okay against them if do those things.

“…We have to take control of the tempo of the game.”

UAPB turned the ball over nearly 20 times a game last season, so Kilbert said having better ball control has been an emphasis at practice.

Another focus has been team unity and team effort due to the fact UAPB lost its big scoring threats.

“We don’t see one person with the ability for us to get on their back and win the game for us,” Kilbert said. “We have to have multiple people score in double digits because we don’t have that player who can score 27 points a game.”

One big advantage of not relying on one player to do it all is that UAPB’s opponents will not be able to key in on one particular person.

“I think that is the way the team is built this year,” Kilbert said. “We should see balanced scoring.

“That’s going to help us.”