It sure ended abruptly but the 2019-2020 Cincinnati women’s basketball season was one of the most exciting in recent memory.
Over the last two seasons, coach Michelle Clark-Heard transformed Cincinnati into the primary contender to UConn’s perpetual crown in the AAC.
With UConn bolting for the Big East, Cincinnati, along with UCF and USF, look to be clubs most likely to pick up the mantle as the AAC’s powerhouses.
The Bearcats posted 24 wins in 2018-2019 and a 22-9 mark in the abbreviated in 2019-2020 season, reaching the AAC conference finals for the first time. If Cincinnati had failed to earn a spot in the 2020 NCAA Tournament, they would have surely been one of the favorites in the 2020 WNIT, a tournament in which UC reached the quarterfinals in 2019.
Moving forward, Cincinnati loses some key pieces from its 2019-2020 club. Senior forward Angel Rizor was a steady offensive and defensive presence who combined size and athleticism. Point guard Antoinette Miller was a dynamic scorer and a slick playmaker. Forward-guard Sam Rodgers will arguably be the Bearcats’ biggest loss. Her versatility and ability to contribute in virtually every facet of the game will be dearly missed. In many respects, she was the glue that held this team together.
Nevertheless, Cincinnati will field a strong team in 2020-2021, one that will be capable of winning the American and earning a bid in the NCAA Tournament. Ilmar’I Thomas has been one of the AAC’s most fearsome interior forces for three seasons now. In a UConn-less American, it will be exciting to see how she dominates the competition. Highly touted, soon-to-be-sophomore guards Jada Scott and Aleah Nelson also look to make larger contributions next season for the Bearcats.
Junior transfer Nesma Khalifa, a 6’4 center from Egypt, looks to be a powerhouse in the low post. She is a definite contender for AAC newcomer of the year in 2020-2021.
Check back with Down the Drive for continued coverage of the Cincinnati Bearcats’ women’s basketball program in the coming months.