Are the Lions talking title? Burton says “We want rings.”

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Are the Lions talking title? Burton says “We want rings.”

Chania Wright (right) dribbles past Jakyya Clay of the Ouachita Baptist Tigers

Chania Wright (right) dribbles past Jakyya Clay of the Ouachita Baptist Tigers

Photo Credit: Esme Galvan

Chania Wright (right) dribbles past Jakyya Clay of the Ouachita Baptist Tigers

Photo Credit: Esme Galvan

Photo Credit: Esme Galvan

Chania Wright (right) dribbles past Jakyya Clay of the Ouachita Baptist Tigers

Drew Ivery, Sports Editor

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By: Drew Ivery | Sports Editor

The Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions women’s basketball team is locked in during a season where it was uncertain how they’d fair in an expanded and tougher Lone Star Conference, but now they’re talking title.

These Lions are for real this season and if you’ve watched them at all, you can see the change in this team. More aggressive and efficient on offense than in years past, as well as extremely committed to the defensive end of the ball like never before.

In a text exchange with Head Coach Jason Burton on Monday after I saw the initial rankings, he said to me “We just need to keep winning,” after we were discussing where the Lions might fall in the rankings before their release and he followed that up with “We want rings.”

The Lions are the No. 12 ranked team in the nation, as released by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association on Tuesday. This marks the Lions’ ninth-ever appearance in the WBCA Coaches’ Poll, and the highest ranking in the history of the program. The Lions were ranked 13th twice during their previous rankings run in 2007-08.

Lions vault to being ranked 10th nationally in the D2SIDA Media Poll after previously not being ranked at all.

Since the LSC awards began being given out this season starting on Nov. 11, the Lions have brought home a Defensive Player of the week award every week but one and none by the same player. In the first week it was award to Madison Glass, then in the past two weeks it has been award to Alexis Bryant and most recently Juliana Louis.

Last season the Lions only earned one Defensive Player of the Week for the entire year, this season they got THREE in 7 games and less than a month of basketball.

“It’s a blessing to be able to coach such a great group of young ladies,” Burton said per Lion Athletics after their last victory to become 7-0. “This team played a tough seven game schedule in 22 days and found a way to go undefeated. And there is still a lot of room for growth.”

Numbers don’t lie

Since a lot of people like to look at the numbers, here they are: The Lions are averaging a blistering 72 points per game this season while holding opponents to just 51 points per game and outscoring their opponents by an average of 21 points. Two Lions are averaging double figures in the scoring department, led by Alexis Bryant at 12.2 ppg and Dyani Robinson with 10 ppg.

The Lions have six players with at least one steal per game including Glass, Louis, Robinson, Alexus Jones, Chania Wright and Agang Tac. Bryant is holding down the paint leading the team in blocks with 1.9 per game.

The Battle Ahead

The Lions are hungry, but realize the road ahead isn’t easy as the conference is still strong with eight teams in the LSC with two losses or less. A&M-Commerce and the defending champion, Lubbock Christian, are the only unbeaten teams remaining.

Though only one of those teams with two losses or less are in our division, the Lions must realize any team can get hot and they could slip up and lose one. A target is on the back of this team and that means they’ll get every teams best every night, so they need to stay sharp constantly and not let the wins get to their head.

“This is a really good team that has a chance to be special,” Burton said about his team. “It is by far the defensive team that I’ve coached. Our biggest challenge is going to be continuing to buy into the process of being great. We are about to get everybody’s best shot. We have to continue to grind and stay hungry. Our goal was never about rankings, it was always about rings.”

After watching this team very closely over the past couple of  years and witnessing some of the all-time players in program history and their teams play, this is definitely the best team. The play harder than teams in years past and like Burton said, it’s his best defensive team.

Looking at the dominance of this team early on, it’s scary to think where they could be to start February after the Christmas break and some more games under their belt. They’ll be capping off January playing against the defending National Champions, who remain at No. 1 in the D2SIDA Media Poll and will be their toughest test of the season, though these Lions are ready for the challenge.

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