The Zags will stay home this week and for their first of two games, take on University of North Florida tonight at 9pm EST in the McCarthy Center.
The Ospreys were selected to finish 11th and 7th in the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) Preseason coaches' and media polls respectively (receiving 2 votes for first place in the latter strangely enough) and had one player selected to the All-ASUN Team in Lyric Swann. When looking into this team, I found that the ASUN published season previews on all teams in their conference with the exception of Central Arkansas, North Florida, and Queens, which seems a bit rude to those teams. So, let's do our own research into this team to understand what the Zags may be going up against.
The 22-23 season was a rough one for the Ospreys as they finished the year with an overall record 7-20 and 4-13 in conference. They averaged 59.7 ppg and allowed 71.2 ppg to their opponents while shooting 37.9% (604-1593) from the field and 30.7% (183-597) from outside the arc. They're defense allowed opponents to shoot 43.4% (709-1632) overall and 35.5% (203-572) from deep. While the team struggled compared to their opponents in shooting efficiency, they played them fairly equal on the glass by averaging 37.1 rebounds per game compared to 38.6. They bring a new coach into this season in Erika Lambert who previously worked as an assistant at Abilene Christian University from 2015-2023 and she inherits four starters from last year. So far this season, they sit at 1-2 with their losses coming in the road opener at the University of Florida (65-82) and an overtime game away at FFAU with their win coming against Trinity Baptist (116-44) (this team is actually not part of the NCAA, but rather NCCAA).
Lyric Swann headlines this team by nature of her All-ASUN Preseason Team selection. The 5'5" redshirt senior guard averaged 14.2 points (34.3% FG and 31.1% 3FG), 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 3.1 turnovers while leading her team in points, steals, and turnovers. While her stats may not be eye-catching, her style sure does as she looks quite agile and pairs that with some slick handles that she can use to get opponents off-balance and allow her to create step back shots or change the point of attack on drives into the paint. She's capable of some big performances against top competition including 16 against Wisconsin, 19 against Auburn, and lead her team in points against Miami (FL) and Alabama. I suspect that some of her poor efficiency likely relates to her high usage given that she averaged 35 minutes per game last season with no one else on the team averaging >30 minutes per game. Interestingly, she played last year at UNF with her sister, Jaelyn, but she's not listed on the roster this year despite being a redshirt junior in 22-23 and doesn't look to have transferred anywhere as far as I can tell.
Another player to watch should be Alexa Washington, an incoming 5'6" freshman guard who was able to score 13 against Florida and 18 against Trinity Baptist this year on 62.5% and 43.8% efficiency, respectively, from the field while also shooting 43.8% from beyond the arc including 3-6 against Florida. The North Florida team website mentions that she was selected as a three-time all conference selection in high school, but I couldn't find any additional information regarding her high school career. That being said, I'm impressed with the start to her college career against Florida as a program of that stature could easily intimidate any player, but certainly someone who was just playing in the high school gyms of the Pittsburgh suburbs.
Emma Broermann will also be a name to remember as the 6'3" senior has 500 rebounds in her career and, while the Bulldogs should be able to win this game comfortably, it's possible that if they don't clean up the offensive rebounds as seen at times this season, the game could be closer than we'd like to see.
I would love to see the Bulldogs get ahead early and, as opposed to some of the earlier games this season, maintain that success in subsequent quarters. This would theoretically allow for the team to get some other players experience on the court and allow the starters some rest before taking on Wyoming at home this Saturday and especially before the back-back-back games in the Van Chancellor Classic the following Fri-Sun.
I would also like to see some specific items from the Zags including Yvonne Ejim staying out of foul trouble given her propensity for such issue, Brynna Maxwell's shot to start falling at a better clip, if only to instill that confidence in her and the team, and some points from the bench players as Maud Hujibens leads that squad with just 6 ppg. Obviously the defense needs to continue taking steps in their development, but I suspect this will be an item of topic throughout the season and, if push comes to shove, I'd rather see our offense get clicking to give us the confidence as the non-conference slate picks up steam.
Be sure to check this game out on ESPN+ and hit the comments below with your thoughts before and during the game!