SACRAMENTO, Calif - While the Wildcats didn't find the level of success in wins and losses they desired during their 13-game non-conference schedule, the Weber State University women's basketball team gained valuable experience to prepare it for the upcoming Big Sky Conference season.
Weber State tips off its conference season on Saturday afternoon against Sacramento State in the Hornet's Nest, with the game scheduled to get underway at 1 p.m.
"We have played a very tough schedule, and have had a lot of injuries," said Weber State coach Bethann Ord. "Even though the win column didn't show it, I feel like the players have been getting better. They never give up and work very hard."
Part of Ord's challenge in her first season has been to implement new offensive and defensive systems, while at the same time meshing a roster that features almost as many newcomers as returning players.
After several disheartening setbacks early in the season, the Wildcats have steadily improved over the past month and head into the conference season playing their best basketball of the year.
"It's obviously not the turnout we wanted," Ord said of her squad's 2-11 mark in non-conference play. "The girls battled every game and I feel like they just keep getting better."
Weber State heads into the Big Sky season having been picked eighth in both the coaches and media preseason polls.
"The girls have a little chip on their shoulders being picked in the lower half of the conference, and I use that a little bit to motivate them," Ord said. "We just have to buy into what we're trying to do, and I think so far we have done a really good job.
"Our goals are obviously to keep getting better, and we want to win our games at home and protect our home court," Ord added. "And then we need to find ways to get wins on the road."
Junior forward Amanda Hughes leads Weber State in scoring (10.1 ppg) and is second in rebound (7.0 rpg) after the 13-game non-conference season. Senior center Mikell Woodfield sits just behind at 9.4 points (second on the team) and leads the Wildcats in rebounding (7.1 rpg).
Junior guard Megan Patterson is third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.2 points, and has knocked down a team-best 25 3-pointers. Patterson led the Big Sky in 3-point field goals made last season and was fourth in the league in 3-point accuracy. Over the Wildcats last six games, starting with their first win against San Jose State, Patterson has averaged 12.8 points and is shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range, knocking down 17-of-41 shots from long distance.
The Hornets (1-0 Big Sky, 6-8 overall) were picked ninth in the preseason polls, but captured their Big Sky opener against Northern Arizona on Thursday, topping the Lumberjacks 91-85 in double overtime. Sacramento State is led by forward Kylie Kuhns, who is fourth in the Big Sky in scoring (15.2 ppg) and leads the league in rebounding (12.2 rpg). Kuhns is the only player in the league averaging a double-double this season, and is coming off a 20-point, 15-rebound effort against Northern Arizona.
It will be the 31st meeting between Weber State and Sacramento State, with the Wildcats holding a 24-6 lead in the all-time series. The teams split the series last year, with each winning at home.
Following Saturday's game, Weber State will kick off the home portion of its Big Sky season on Thursday, Jan. 5, against Eastern Washington.