Women’s Basketball: FAU hopes to make run in Conference USA Basketball Championships

The Owls are coming into the tournament after not winning a single conference game last year.

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Women’s Basketball: FAU hopes to make run in Conference USA Basketball Championships

FAU redshirt junior guard Danneal Ford (00) looks up the court to find a pass to her players. FAU went on to lose 66-55 against Mercer on Nov 17, 2017. Lauren Sopourn | Contributing Writer

FAU redshirt junior guard Danneal Ford (00) looks up the court to find a pass to her players. FAU went on to lose 66-55 against Mercer on Nov 17, 2017. Lauren Sopourn | Contributing Writer

FAU redshirt junior guard Danneal Ford (00) looks up the court to find a pass to her players. FAU went on to lose 66-55 against Mercer on Nov 17, 2017. Lauren Sopourn | Contributing Writer

FAU redshirt junior guard Danneal Ford (00) looks up the court to find a pass to her players. FAU went on to lose 66-55 against Mercer on Nov 17, 2017. Lauren Sopourn | Contributing Writer

Wajih AlBaroudi, Contributing Writer

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After its worst season in program history in 2016-2017, FAU women’s basketball has turned it around under first-year head coach Jim Jabir and is ready to potentially make noise in the Conference USA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The Owls (10-8, 4-3 C-USA) currently rank seventh in the conference, but play key games against teams ahead of them in the standings–Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, and Middle Tennessee–giving them a chance to improve their  positioning before the regular season ends.

Senior guard/forward Sasha Cedeño leads FAU’s high-powered offense; the Owls average 72.4 points per game, third-best in C-USA.

Cedeño is CUSA’s fourth leading scorer, averaging 17.9 points per game; She also ranks fifth in three-pointers made, knocking down 2.6 per game.

Junior forward Ra’Kyra Gabriel’s career best 55 percent shooting from deep creates essential floor spacing for the Owls offense.

With Gabriel becoming an outside shooting threat, defenders usually tasked with protecting the paint now have to step out to the three-point line to guard her–leaving open lanes to the rim.

Over the last four games Gabriel has made nine three-point shots, only having made four total prior to that point in her career.

FAU’s hard work on the boards has been a difference maker this season–they lead C-USA in rebounding at 44.6 per game.

Cedeño and Gabriel are vital to FAU’s rebounding efforts, as they rank ninth and 11th in C-USA respectively in that department.

FAU has been a mixed bag defensively; only two teams in CUSA (FIU and UTSA) give up more points than the Owls 68.3 points per game. They are the fourth best in three-point defense though, holding opponents to 29 percent from deep.

The Owls must focus on continuing to close out hard on outside shooters, but not overcommitting and leaving the basket undefended.

Leaving The Burrow to play on the road has been a struggle for FAU. Despite being 7-3 at home, the Owls lost four of seven road games and fell in their lone neutral site game.

The Owls rank fourth in turnover margin at +1.2 thanks in part to the efficient play of their guards– senior Malia Kency and redshirt junior Danneal Ford.

Ford is fourth in C-USA with 4.8 assists per game and 11th in assist to turnover ratio at +1.3.

Ford has been a staple of reliability for Coach Jabir; she has started in all of FAU’s 18 games and plays the fifth most minutes per game in CUSA at 34.7.

Kency has done a great job taking care of the basketball and preventing mistakes, ranking fifth in CUSA with an assist to turnover ratio of +1.8.

Kency set a conference single game high for assists after an 11 assist performance Nov. 24 against SFBKW.

FAU needs to create more plays defensively to help them get out in transition and score fastbreak points. The Owls rank 10th in blocks and 11th in steals among CUSA teams.

This year’s CUSA Basketball Championships will be a homecoming for the Texas-native Cedeño. The tournament will be played in Frisco, Texas–located less than four hours away from Cedeño’s hometown of Spring, Texas.

The Owls were winless in conference play last season, but an impressive 2017-2018 regular season gives them a chance for redemption, and an opportunity to win the Women’s Basketball C-USA Championship for the first time in FAU history.

The first round of the CUSA Basketball Championships begins Mar. 7 at the Ford Center at the Star.  

Wajih AlBaroudi is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet @WajihAlBaroudi