As the Spartans move into the second half of the season, junior guard/forward Ellen Nurmi believes that defense will decide their fate. “In order to win the SSC, we need to pay more attention to detail and step up on defense,” said Nurmi. “Tampa has always been known as a great defensive team and we are trying to live up to that standard as well.”
The Spartans currently stand at 11-6 on the season. With nine games remaining in the season, UT will look to improve on its sluggish start. UT is currently 4-3 in conference play, and are currently ranked fifth in the SSC. The women’s basketball team started off the season strong with a 6-2 record heading into winter break. In the first game back, the Spartans traveled to Florida Southern College to take part in the Florida Southern Basketball Tournament and they opened the tournament with a game against Eastern New Mexico.
They started the game on a 15-2 run and ran away with it, finishing up the blowout win by a final score of 84-59. Junior guard Juliana Cavallaro led the team in scoring with 20 points. Four other Spartans finished with double-digit points including junior center Taylor McVey who tacked on 11 points and 12 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
In the second game of the Florida Southern Tournament, the Spartans took on Molloy College. The game started out poorly for the UT who were down by 12 with 12 minutes left in the first half. They trailed for most of the game but had an amazing comeback to tie the game with nine minutes remaining.
The teams went back and forth the rest of the way until Cavallaro nailed two free-throws to give the Spartans a two point lead with 3.1 seconds remaining. On the inbound, sophomore guard Aliyah McDonald of Molloy College took the ball up the court only to hit a three-point shot from way behind the arc as time expired to give Molloy the one point victory.
UT hosted Lynn University in a game that showed Tampa’s solid defensive capabilities. In the first half, the Spartans held Lynn to just 4-of-28 (14.3%) shooting from the field. Junior guard/forward Ellen Nurmi scored 12 points in the second half, which led the resurgence of the Spartans offense in the half. Senior guard Aisha Rodney led the game with 14 points scored. The Spartans went on to win by a final score of 59-44.
Four days later, the Spartans traveled to St. Petersburg to take on Eckerd College. The Spartans started off poorly once again in this one, shooting just 3-of-22 (13.6%) from the field. UT also turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, which led to Eckerd taking a 32-10 lead into the half.
The Spartans had an excellent second half in which they outscored Eckerd 34-23 but were unable to overcome the poor mistakes of the first half. Eckerd walked away with the win with the final score of 55-44.
After the loss to Eckerd, UT looked to rebound against Florida Tech. The game did not start the way the Spartans hoped, as they trailed by 17 during the first half. They also committed 13 turnovers in the first half, as flashbacks to the previous weeks matchup loomed over the team. Nurmi led the comeback for the Spartans as she scored 14 points in the second half. The Spartans pulled within two points with 1:51 remaining in the game, but were unable to complete the comeback. The Spartans fell to Florida Tech 62-57.
With three home games in sight and the Spartans desperately in need of a win, they took on their rival St. Leo. The Lions started the game strong shooting 64% from the field in the first half. Junior guard Kinnara Lewis scored 19 points in the first half. UT trailed by as many as 21 points in the half, but made a late push to go into halftime trailing by 17.
With only 5:51 remaining in the game, the Spartans took the lead and never looked back. The Spartans completed the comeback by a score of 62-53.
The next game the Spartans hosted Palm Beach Atlantic in a statement game for the Spartans. Tampa completely dominated this game as they won by a score of 64-39. Cavallaro led the team with 15 points which all came from behind the 3 point arc. She shot 5-10 (50%) from three which is a career best.
Junior guard Juliana Cavallaro has high hopes for the rest of the season.
“We have had some success along with the adversity thrown at us this season. As of now, we are improving and need to make the necessary adjustments to avenge the losses we had in the first round of conference play.”
Following the blowout win, the Spartans took on Florida Southern in another big win. The Spartans won 63-52 and were led by Rodney who led the team with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Ed Kerner can be reched at firstname.lastname@example.org