Highlights from Senior Day victory - UC women's basketball (copy)

The University of Cincinnati women's basketball team heads to the AAC tournament Saturday, March 9. The team has 20 regular-season wins under its belt this year — the highest number since 2002-03.

The University of Cincinnati women’s basketball team finished the regular season with a 20-9 record, marking the first time the team has reached 20 wins in a single season since 2002-03.

“I don’t think any coach can look at what can possibly happen when they first get to a new program,” first-year head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said when asked whether she anticipated reaching 20 wins in her inaugural season at UC. “There’s so many variables to the things that can happen. I give these players a lot of credit. They took all the things that the coaching staff and I have said and ran with them.”

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At this point in the season, the slates are wiped clean, and teams must keep winning to keep their season alive. The Bearcats begin play in the American Athletic Conference tournament Saturday evening in Uncasville, Connecticut, against the University of Memphis Tigers — a team the Bearcats defeated twice during the regular season.

UC handled Memphis fairly easily in the two prior meetings, winning 80-56 at home Jan. 26 and 89-69 on the road Feb. 13. Junior guard Antoinette Miller’s top priority is making sure her team doesn’t overlook the Tigers.

“It’s hard to beat a team three times,” Miller said. “We can’t come into the game thinking, ‘We beat them twice already, so we’ll beat them again.’ In March, anybody can do anything. We just have to follow the game plan and be disciplined.”

The Bearcats won the final four regular-season games after going on a five-game win streak toward the beginning of conference play from Jan. 16 to Jan. 30.

“Winning is contagious,” Clark-Heard said. “When we started winning and got on a roll where we won a couple in a row, the confidence continued to keep building.”

Conference tournaments are a constant challenge — if a team advances, it plays again the following day. If the Bearcats manage to advance Saturday, they will play Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m.

Clark-Heard and junior guard Sam Rodgers believe the grind of the regular season has put the team’s endurance at the highest level of this season.

“Kelly [Powers], our strength coach, does a phenomenal job,” Clark-Heard said. “Our players are already in shape. This is the fun part. It’s the best time of the year, so as a head coach, you have to be smart. We have to make sure that we’re limiting practice times. We’re already in the position we need to be in as far as conditioning.”

“We’ve prepared the whole season for this,” Rodgers said. “We’re definitely in the best shape we’ve been in right now.”

Tip-off with Memphis is 8 p.m. and ESPN3 will be televising. Click or tap here to stream the game online.

Managing Editor

Matt Huffmon has been with The News Record since 2018 as staff reporter, sports editor, and managing editor. He has bylines with The Plain Dealer/cleveland.com, and this summer, he will be a communications intern with Kentucky Speedway.