The HBU women’s basketball team reached new levels of success in the 2021-22 season. For the first time in program history, they finished the season with the best record in the Southland Conference and became the first sport on campus to win a regular-season title since HBU joined the Southland. Their participation in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) was the first time the women’s team has played NCAA postseason basketball in program history.
HBU was well represented in All-Conference voting and postseason awards from the Conference. Head Coach Donna Finnie was named Southland Coach of the Year while junior guard Timia Jefferson earned Player of the Year laurels. A full list of award recipients is listed below.
Tough Non-Conference Schedule
With such a tough non-conference schedule, the Huskies lost six of their first nine games to open their season with several narrow losses against the likes of TCU, New Mexico, Grand Canyon and Montana. The women’s Southland Conference Preseason Tournament was canceled due to COVID just ahead of the start of the conference schedule, but the Huskies still felt they had a productive non-conference schedule that prepared them for the rigors of the SLC slate despite a 4-7 record.
Dominating the Southland
As it turned out, they were in a great place. There was no better team when conference play rolled around than the Huskies. HBU opened up Southland play in style when they scored a season-high 82 points on the road against the McNeese Cowgirls, led by Jefferson and N’Denasija Collins with 28 and 17 points respectively. Collins finished the game with a double-double and pulled in a career-high 14 rebounds.
After starting the conference schedule with a pair of road wins, the Huskies dropped their first SLC game of the season at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Huskies then went on a tear to close out the regular season, winning 10 of their last 11 games, including avenging their loss to the Islanders. After trailing by 15 going into halftime, the Huskies outscored the Islanders 37-18 in the second half to win by four. That late-season push helped cement HBU as the top seed in the conference tournament and a home win over McNeese to close the regular season saw the Huskies cutting down the nets and celebrating championships.
As the top seed, the Huskies got a bye all the way through until the semifinals of the tournament. Unfortunately for HBU, they came up against a red-hot fifth-seeded UIW Cardinals team that had a Cinderella run through the tournament, taking home the crown.
For the first time in program history, the Huskies were invited to participate in the WNIT. Their first-round matchup was in Toledo, Ohio against the Toledo Rockets.
HBU opened that WNIT game cold from the field, shooting just 3-of-14 in the first quarter with Toledo jumping ahead 26-11. The Rockets also took early command of the boards, leading the category 18-5 in the quarter, but HBU countered with an 8-0 run to start the second quarter and got back in the fight, trailing by just seven points at halftime.
After again trailing by double- figures, the Huskies cut their deficit to just two but the Rockets, who would eventually fall in the quarterfinals of the WNIT, were able to hold off the Huskies and finish with a 61-51 victory.
Along with Finnie and Jefferson’s awards, assistant coach Becca Allison was recognized by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches as the Division I Assistant Coach of the Year. Guards Julija Vujakovic and Kennedy Wilson were named Second Team All-Conference while center Marilyn Nzoiwu was named to the All-Defense Team.
For the eighth time in the last 9 years, the women’s basketball program was named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Top- 25 GPA list, earning a 3.621 GPA for the 22nd-highest average in the country.
At the conclusion of the season, Jefferson and Vujakovic were named the Southland Conference All-Academic First Team while Abbey Sutherland, Nzoiwu, and Wilson were named Second Team.
The Huskies will look to build on this season’s successes, returning all five starters and the majority of the bench unit from last season along with the additions, new recruits and transfers.