Stephens College basketball team looks to ease stress of tough season

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 | 8:02 p.m. CST; updated 8:27 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — With the Stephens College women's basketball team struggling, coach Bill Bixon and his players are working to get rid of some stress.

After the team suffered a tough 56-21 loss Monday at the University of St. Mary, Bixon and assistant coach Marta Menuez have been working on fundamentals and, most important, relaxing the mindset of their players.

“The scoreboards don’t show what these girls are going through this season,” said Casey Martin, a senior Stars guard who has been sidelined by illness this season. “I feel like a large part of it is mental. If they can get over that, we’ll be 10 times better.”

With a 3-15 record, the Stars have been faced with new coaches, numerous injuries and a lack of experienced players. Currently, the team has seven active players, leaving little to no substitutes.

“Because we are such a small team, we need to stick together,” senior guard Cara Leis said. “When there’s a lot of freshmen and different age groups, it’s really important we come together and on the same page.”

In addition, four of seven of the active players are freshmen who have been forced to adapt to college-level play and few breaks during games.

Freshman guard Brittany Tutt has taken a spot in the starting lineup for the past few games.

“Coming to college, I didn’t expect to start,” Tutt said. “I got thrown into playing, but I’m learning as I’m going.”

As they gain experience, Tutt and fellow freshmen Davielle McCoy, Rebecca Brannon and Kelsea Whitten are showing potential.

“Kelsea’s an incredible shooter,” Martin said. “She can just about make it from anywhere on the court.”

But the team is still dealing with the present.

“We are a young team and growing,” Bixon said. “This is where we are, and we have to go through this to get to the next level. The freshmen are learning how to play college ball and how to be a college student.”

Last week, Bixon used a new technique in practice to break the routine and unite the team. The players write out their favorite practice drills on slips of paper, and then a random drill is chosen during practice.

“We’ve been struggling the past couple of games,” Bixon said. “With all the losses this season, we’ve been trying to get them more relaxed.”

The team will play its next game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Park University.

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