The University of Cincinnati (UC) women’s basketball season officially came to an end after losing to Tulane University in the first round of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) tournament. The Bearcats finished with a 9-21 record – their third straight losing season.
Following the AAC tournament loss, Director of Athletics John Cunningham announced Michelle Clark-Heard would not return as the head coach – ending a five-year stint with the program that saw two seasons with 20-plus victories.
With a move to the Big 12 looming, it was time for each side to part ways. Clark-Heard hit the ground running in her first two years, but the last three have been disappointing, to say the least. Winning only two conference games in a conference that is far inferior to the Big 12 a year before the switch does not ring positive.
Despite the discouraging season, players flashed signs of progress and perseverance, a good sign for the next head coach. After suffering nine consecutive losses, UC responded by winning two of the next three.
The biggest problem for UC this season was depth scoring. Only two Bearcats averaged more than 10 points a game, junior Jillian Hayes and senior Mya Jackson. Hayes also averaged the most points (12.8), rebounds (8.6), and steals (1.6), this season. Sophomore Clarissa Craig finished third in average points at 6.7. For reference: the University of Texas, the top team in the Big 12, had five players average in double figures.
In its final six games, all losses, UC failed to score more than 60 points in a game. With the competition set to ramp up, UC needs to find more balanced scoring.
Without more consistent offensive firepower, UC will continue to struggle against stronger competition. Whether it’s through the portal or on the recruiting trail, the next head coach will need to find more depth on the offensive end.
However, the first challenge for the next person in charge is convincing Hayes to stay. Whether or not she wants to leave is a mystery, but Hayes is Cincinnati through and through. Born and raised in the area and playing all three years of college ball at UC, Hayes has improved in all assets of her game each season. Now entering her senior year, Hayes would be an ideal leader for the new coach.
Before any of this can transpire, Cunningham needs to find the right candidate. He seemed to have found the perfect man to run the men’s basketball program, so now he needs to do the same for the women’s.
Although the new conference will certainly increase competition, the increased exposure will bring in more revenue and better recruits. Hoping to avoid their fourth-straight losing season, the next coach will have their work cut out for them from the jump.