Walker’s words to Lady Braves: Just finish it

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

LORMAN &045; In a perfect world, Alcorn head women’s coach Shirley Walker would have had a VCR ready to record that Kentucky-Mississippi State men’s finish Tuesday.

She was watching it &045; the coach with 421 wins to her credit says she still likes to get pointers where she can &045; but was really impressed with how the Wildcats finished the game. It’s something her Lady Brave club didn’t do at last week’s homestand and several other occasions this season.

The Lady Braves hit the road Saturday when they play at Mississippi Valley State before playing at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday in hopes of improving on their 1-3 mark in the SWAC.

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&uot;We’ve been in every ball game, but we just don’t know how to close it out,&uot; Walker said. &uot;I think we have a team who can really get the job done, but I think it’s up to them to learn how to close it out. We’ll just have to work it out. We always tell our kids, ‘If you’re a ball player, you can do it.’ You’ve got to push your kids and make them believe in themselves.&uot;

Part of what’s plagued the Lady Braves (2-10, 1-3) so far as &045; and Walker dislikes using it as an excuse &045; is just some inexperience on the perimeter. Going into last week’s homestand with Jackson State and Grambling, the team was still searching for that consistent starting five for a ball game, especially at the guard positions.

Here lately there’s been some consistency with freshman Tiffaney Smith at point guard with top scorer LaToya Johnson at the two guard. Natasha Dennis, a sophomore out of Woodville, has seen plenty of minutes lately at the three spot.

There’s also been the little things nagging them &045; missed free throws and layups. The Lady Braves missed 11 free throws in Monday’s 74-72 loss to Grambling, four in Saturday’s 67-64 loss to Jackson and 27 in the road win over Prairie View Jan. 5.

&uot;We have a freshman point guard, and I really take my hat off to her,&uot; Walker said. &uot;She’s getting better every game but has a lot more work to do to get everybody in the flow of the game. We were able to match up with Grambling because Grambling didn’t have any inside game. You can’t win a ball game if you don’t make free throws and layups and continue to make turnovers like we do.&uot;

They’ll have to do it this weekend without Johnson, who averages 14.1 points per game. The broken nose that already had the junior from Hazlehurst playing with a mask will require surgery in Vicksburg this weekend &045; an option much better than having the procedure done late in the season.

However, guard Alicia Gardner may play this weekend as she recovers from the flu. The junior college transfer from California didn’t play in the last homestand. Shikhia Sims and Tawny Whiting may get the nod at Johnson’s spot this weekend.

Gardner has six of the team’s 17 3-pointers this season &045; a mark that’s well below everyone else in conference. The Lady Braves have attempted 77 &045; also a conference low &045; and the next-highest is Prairie View’s 118.

&uot;We’re hoping Gardner will be ready and strong enough,&uot; Walker said. &uot;I don’t know &045; she was so weak Monday night. She says she’s ready, but we know she’s not ready.&uot;

The result has put the Lady Braves as the third-lowest in scoring in the SWAC, but fortunately for them they’ll face the two teams under them this weekend. Valley and UAPB have struggled so far as both teams dropped two in Alabama last week.

The Delta Devils remain under the tutelage of former Alcorn assistant Nate Kilbert, now in his third season in Itta Bena.

Saturday’s game will be Kilbert’s fifth against Walker after losing the first four.

&uot;Going to Valley is not going to be an easy cookie,&uot; Walker said. &uot;Their crowd always has a tendency to get into the game. I just hope my kids go in from the tipoff &045; let’s work, try to get the job done and go from there. You’ve got to get your defensive assignments down. We let Grambling get in the middle and get some easy baskets.&uot;