Following each victory for the Wildcats this season, 18 to be exact, it seems head coach Deb Patterson has consistently used the same word to describe her feelings.
It’s hard to blame her either, because it would be even harder to expect more out of her team.
The Wildcats have played above the expectations of many and they are in the midst of a historic 2009 season. With an 18-1 overall record and a 5-1 record in arguably the toughest conference in women’s basketball, Patterson’s team is playing with a veteran swagger.
It’s that swagger that has led them to a No. 12 slot in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and given them a target on their back within the Big 12 conference; a target only the Oklahoma Sooners have been able to hit. It enabled them to go on the road last week to steal victories in both Lubbock, Texas and Lawrence. The win against Texas Tech snapped a 10-game home winning streak for the Red Raiders.
Yet, there is a need for the confident poise which the Wildcats have so effectively developed. It’s needed to win in the Big 12 Conference.
It’s not hard to develop that confidence by winning home games, but what defines a team is how it plays in a hostile environment.
Patterson has consistently stressed the importance of road wins to her team throughout the season. She is aware of their importance and scheduled seven road games to test her Wildcats in the early portion of the season.
Her team went 7-0.
Her team is now 2-1 in conference road games this season with their only blemish coming in Norman, Okla. against the Sooners, who were ranked third in the country at the time. The Wildcats were leading the contest at half time, yet for the first and only time this season, left the court with a loss.
But why have the Wildcats played so well this season? How have they continued to find different ways to win games? What has fueled their confidence?
Where did this swagger come from?
Sure, they have great players plus and they are starting three seniors and two juniors, but winning 17 of 18 games requires more than raw talent and experience.
I believe there is another aspect to this equation.
The Wildcats are out to prove people wrong.
They began this season predicted to finish seventh in the Big 12, a conference which they won just last year. The Wildcats have already defeated Iowa State in their first meeting this season. The Cyclones were tabbed to finish third in the conference. In Norman, they were two minutes from defeating Oklahoma, the No. 3 team in the nation. Oklahoma was picked to finish first in the Big 12.
In athletics, one of the greatest feelings is proving critics wrong and the best, most effective way to do that is to win. Nineteen games into their schedule, the Wildcats have done that.
While they have run through their schedule at this point with the poise of a championship team, the Wildcats are about to be tested. A quick peek at the remaining schedule for Patterson’s team is highlighted by a February matchup at No. 4 Baylor and home games against both No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 16 Texas in March.
This stretch will truly test the Wildcats’ poise and ability to grind out the final games of the regular season.
But it will also provide a perfect opportunity to prove their critics wrong.
If the Wildcats are able to keep their swagger throughout the remainder of their tough schedule, Deb Patterson will have plenty to be proud of.
Britton Drown is a sophomore in mass communications. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org