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Women’s Basketball: McDaniel fills every role for UL women

Unsung senior enforces team defense, effort

She is, without question, the "X-factor" on UL’s women’s basketball team.

Alicia McDaniel isn’t normally among the leading scorers, although she might be the most improved offensive player on the squad.

She’s not the leading rebounder, but she’s averaging six a game as a 5-foot-7 guard.

She’s not the point guard, but she is second on the team in assists and steals.

And she calls herself the defender.

It makes for a pretty busy 40 minutes every time the Ragin’ Cajuns take the floor, especially starting Saturday, when UL plays in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

The Cajuns (23-7) are the number two seed in the event entering Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. contest against Florida International, and McDaniel is the most unsung reason they’re in that position.

"The stuff she does, a lot of it doesn’t show up in the box," said Cajun coach J. Kelley Hall. "But when she doesn’t have a good game, you can look and we didn’t have a good game."

Fortunately for Hall and her teammates, there have been a lot more good games than bad this season. One of those came Sunday in the regular-season finale, when the Houston product had a season-high 11rebounds, nine points, 2-of-3 3pointers, four assists, three steals and a block in a 75-59 win over North Texas.

What didn’t show on her stat line was that UNT’s starting three guards combined for only 15 points.

"I have to be the defensive stopper," said McDaniel, who always draws the man-to-man assignment on the opponent’s best perimeter player. "All the scoring and stuff directly comes off that. That’s what I have to do."

"She defends their best guard, and we don’t even talk about that any more," Hall said. "She stepped right into that role."

In large part through her efforts, UL led the league in shooting defense (34.8 percent) and in rebounding (a ?10.0 margin) and was second in scoring defense (57.3 points allowed).

"It’s come to where we expect her to get close to 10 rebounds a game, because she’s so physical," Hall said, "and she’s doubled her offensive output every year. That’s hard to do when you’re not the go-to player."

Her two 3-pointers came in the final seven minutes Sunday and put the final nails in UNT’s coffin that game, and she’ll take 7.4 point-per-game and 6.0 rebound-per-game averages into Saturday’s quarterfinals.

"She’s a lot better player than people give her credit for," Hall said. "That allows her to keep being the underdog."

UL won’t be the underdog Saturday with two wins over FIU already this season, but McDaniel said she’s not taking anything for granted and that no one’s looking ahead to the semifinals and finals Monday and Tuesday.

Hall said focus and preparation aren’t a problem with McDaniel.

"She’s one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had," he said. "She knows her role and she goes out there and does it. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for her."

Alicia McDaniel file

 

Age: 20

Birthplace: Baytown, Texas

High School: James Madison High, Houston

Background: Has played in 88 games in three years, starting 52 in the last two seasons … Increased scoring averages from 1.8 to 4.6 to 7.4 over three years … Averaging more minutes per game (34.1) than anyone on squad … Had career-high 16 points in win over Denver to open January and had career-high 11 boards Sunday in win over North Texas … Came within a missed free throw of second career double-double Sunday … Fourth on team in scoring (7.4), third in rebounding (6.0) and second in assists (78) and steals (44).

Lagniappe: Was recruited by Oklahoma State, Navy, New Mexico State, Texas-Arlington and UTEP … Kinesiology major who wants to go into athletic training.