The hottest program at the hottest college in America may be Cincinnati Bearcats’ Women’s Basketball. The 11-5 Bearcats find themselves in the upper echelon of the American Athletic Confernce after years in the cellar. On Saturday, they improved their conference record to 2-1 with an 85-64 blowout win over the University of Houston.
The Bearcats are led by the triumvirate of Shanice Johnson, Ana Owens and Bianc Quisenberry. Johnson, a 5’11” junior forward from Philadelphia, is one of the AAC’s premier scorers and rebounders. Through 15 games, she is averaging a near double-double every night, posting 14.2 points and more than nine rebounds per game.
Indianapolis native Ana Owens is a deadly outside shooter. he 5’5” guard is averaging 13.4 points per game while hitting more than a third of her three-point attempts and shooting .857 from the foul line. Owens’ backcourt partner Bianc Quisenberry, a senior from Springfield, Ohio, is averaging nearly 10 points per game.
The credit for the Bearcats’ revival must be placed on the shoulders of head coach Jamelle Elliott, now in her sixth year at the helm. Elliott, who as a college player was one of the building blocks of Geno Auriemma’s dynasty at the University of Connecticut, has built up the Bearcats program through steady recruiting and the creation of a winning team culture. Winning hasn’t come easily. The Bearcats’ fine 2016-2017 team was built on the backs of a pair of eight win teams in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. Credit must go to Bearcat Athletic Director Mike Bohn for his commitment to the vision that Elliott has employed in the construction of this program.
The Bearcats are a tough, high-energy team, reflecting the virtues both practiced and preached by their coach. They do all the little things correctly: they play consistently good defense, they hustle in transition, they hit their foul shots and their ball movement enables them to find open looks at the basket. Neither the biggest or most physically gifted team in the conference, the Bearcats are, nonetheless, one of the craftiest and most poised.
Please continue to read Down the Drive for season-long coverage of UC women’s basketball. We will be following the team closely for the remainder of their push for an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Bearcats are home again on Jan. 17 for a league game against SMU. I hope to see you all there supporting the team.
Clayton Trutor is a staff writer for Down the Drive. He is the co-editor of Overcoming Adversity: Baseball’s Tony Conigliaro Award, published by the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow him on Twitter: @ClaytonTrutor