The Cougars hold a 10-13 overall record and are 5-8 in the PacWest Conference.
Sitting just below .500 on the season, the Cougars are focused on gaining momentum and making the postseason—where anything can happen.
“It’s been a tough schedule but at the same time, we’ve got some winnable games in front of us that we need to really focus on,” Head Coach Justin Leslie said. “If we can do that, it will put us into the conference tournament. Ultimately, our goal would be to win as many of these remaining conference games as we possibly can to give ourselves an opportunity to go into the conference tournament on a high note.”
The Cougars are running with a younger team this year with only five upperclassmen on the roster (two seniors and three juniors). As a result, this season has been a learning experience.
Leslie noted that his team has faced challenges this season that will help their growing process and pay dividends in the long run.
“They will understand the standard that they are going to have to uphold and how difficult the process that leads to success really is,” Leslie said. “Ultimately, it’s going to turn out to help us down the road. It is just hard in the short term when you’re not putting together four or five game win streaks.”
One of the Cougars’ biggest challenges this year has been winning games on the road. They have been a successful team at home, boasting a 7-5 record. However, away games have been a different story; there they hold a record of 1-6.
“We’ve had a lot of games on the road where we have been really close at the end, but we just have to develop the belief that we can pull it out, which comes from success,” Leslie said. “If we can get one or two road wins, then we can rattle off a couple more after that.”
Despite a roller coaster season, junior power forward Corey Langerveld is proud of his team’s resilience.
“Obviously we are not in a place where we want to be, but we still have goals and we’re not satisfied,” Langerveld said. “I am most proud of our unwillingness to give up, and of the fact that we are ready to fight.”
Langerveld noted that every single game left is crucial to win if they want to be in the postseason.
“I truly believe we are a team that can hit our stride come postseason, but the key is getting there first,” Langerveld said. “I expect us to finish out this year stringing together multiple wins and being in a position to make the conference tournament.”
The women’s basketball team had a rough beginning to the season, losing seven out of their first 10 games. Since then, they have managed to turn it around, winning eight of the last 11 games. Overall, the Cougars own a 11-10 record and stand at a solid 9-4 record in the PacWest Conference.
The Cougars came into the season with a younger team, including five freshmen. In addition, they brought in four transfer students. Because of this, it has taken some time to build chemistry.
“We’re learning to play together, in a system together,” Head Coach T.J. Hardeman said. “We are way better now than we were when started the season, and we will continue to get better.”
Hardeman expects the team to continue to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to successfully work together on the court. He also noted the challenge of learning how to play together during a demanding schedule.
“There are no easy games. I’ve been proud of the way the team has faced tough challenges,” Hardeman said. “We’re going to win or learn. Even in the winning, we are learning. It is really a process of getting better and doing our best.”
Junior forward Casey Wortley is one of the team’s transfer athletes, and she noted that confidence is the key to success.
“Most of us transferred from bad experiences, so confidence in ourselves and in each other is important,” Wortley said.
Wortley believes the team has the opportunity to go very far in the future if they keep growing closer together.
“We have a great team, but we are also a close family,” Wortley said. “Our relationship on and off the court is what I am most proud of. At the end of the day, basketball isn’t always going to be around, but our relationships with God, our family and the team will always be there.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams will play their next game at home on Thursday, Feb. 2, against Hawaii Hilo in the Felix Event Center.