Who&8217;s to relieve Powell down low? ASU turning to Wily, Collins

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

LORMAN &8212; And you thought you have rough days at the office.

Try going to work and being shoved constantly from behind. You get the hard elbows to the chest and stomach. And if none of that works, prepare to be nearly tackled when all you&8217;re trying to do is do your job.

That&8217;s life for Alcorn post Rasaan Powell each Saturday and Monday. And up until last week, she had been getting little help, especially under the basket.

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The Lady Braves are beginning to change that.

&8220;I have to keep my composure,&8221; said Powell, who still leads the conference in scoring and field-goal percentage but is second now in rebounding. &8220;Their goal is to get me upset. Sometimes I let it get to me, but I just have to play through it. They did a good job of doing that the first half (last week), but they weren&8217;t focusing on the other players.&8221;

When Alabama State and Alabama A&M did that in last week&8217;s homestand, the Lady Braves finally answered the challenge. Instead of trying to get it into Powell in a double- or triple-team, they had other players step up.

Both games it was key inside play from Shawntawnee Collins and Latoya Wily, along with shooting from the perimeter. What head coach Shirley Walker has preached for so long was finally executed with efficiency.

Alcorn will need that again tonight when they visit first-place Southern University.

&8220;Shan is human,&8221; Walker said. &8220;You play 45 minutes with an overtime, and it wears out anybody. I would have to put some other people in there to give her a break. Down the stretch, we&8217;re going to need her. I really noticed it when she went to the free-throw line in one game and didn&8217;t have any legs.&8221;

No one is realizing that more than Collins and Wily, who each turned in solid games over the weekend alongside Powell or in Powell&8217;s spot under the basket. Wily had the big game against A&M with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Collins had her first productive game against Alabama State with six points and six rebounds in 21 minutes.

The two are key now with 6-8 Tina Huff playing sparingly following a diagnosis of an apparent heart condition.

&8220;Latoya did a real good job of scoring and rebounding, and the guards did also,&8221; Powell said. &8220;They had their confidence going, believed in their shot, it went in and they did what they had to do. (Wily and Collins) are taking a lot of pressure off me. Instead of three people guarding me, it may be two or one.&8221;

Collins may be the pleasant surprise as a freshman, but Wily had more minutes in the A&M game after playing only 12 minutes against Bama State after picking up her third foul.

Wily, the native of Hawaii, is the sophomore folks were counting on inside prior to the season after showing last year she could use her big body to shove back and grab rebounds under the basket.

Wily is second on the team in rebounds at 5.6 a game while starting in eight of the Lady Braves&8217; 16 games.

&8220;I&8217;ll put it like this &8212; everybody has their bad games and good games,&8221; Wily said. &8220;It just feels good knowing if I have a bad day, I believe and trust in the next player to go out there and pick up my slack. It&8217;s going out there and playing for your team. We want to play for our team, our school and our coach.&8221;

Wily has started each of the last four games, and Walker said her confidence has started to blossom.

She&8217;s battled the obstacles typical to younger players &8212; sometimes getting too high with the highs and low with the lows &8212; while trying to contribute each game out.

&8220;I know a lot more about the program,&8221; Wily said. &8220;I&8217;m getting the system down this year. Coach is really doing a good job helping coach all of us. We&8217;re just trying to help each other out. We&8217;re all a big family. Shan is going to get a lot of double- and triple-teams. We need to believe in each other.&8221;