Feb. 26, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Marshall women’s basketball Coach Matt Daniel doesn’t quite put it like this, but he’s been hoping one of the Thundering Herd veterans would play up to her name.
That would be “like the dickens.”
And Suporia Dickens has responded of late for the rebuilding Herd. The 5-foot-10 junior has emerged in the last six games, which is one reason why Marshall (9-17, 3-10) has won three of its last seven games and takes a three-game Henderson Center win streak into Thursday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against Southern Miss (12-14, 4-9).
Dickens said she’s just been doing what a lot of players wish their coaches would tell them.
“I’m just trying to do what the coaches tell me,” Dickens said, “and they’ve been saying to shoot when I’m open.”
Dickens has averaged 14.0 points per game over her last six outings, and she has kept shooting. The game before those six, a 55-54 home win over Memphis, Dickens was only 3-of-18 from the floor. She’s 27-of-61 since then.
“At first it was like, ‘Do you really want us to shoot it?’” Dickens said of the transition to a first-year coach’s fast-paced attack. “If it’s a good shot, Coach Daniel wants you to shoot it. And he thinks an open shot is a good shot.”
In Sunday’s 71-61 overtime loss at Rice, Dickens’ career-high 21 points were a Herd high since Tynikki Crook scored 32 in a 64-61 double-overtime Henderson Center loss to George Washington on Dec. 2, 2010. Dickens made 5-of-9 from behind the 3-point arc, and also grabbed nine rebounds.
In those last six games, “Porty” – as she is nicknamed – is averaging 6.2 rebounds and has made 10 threes. Her 20-fo-26 free throw line numbers surprised even her … but Dickens’ offense has become a key ingredient on a team whose top scorer, “sixth man” guard Shay Weaver, averages 9.3 for the season.
“Suporia is starting to understand what we need her to do on the floor,” Daniel said. “She has grown quite a bit in about every aspect of life both on and off the floor since we got here.
“As with everyone, as she continues to grow and get better, so will our team. And as our team continues to grow and get better, she will be pushed to hopefully make another leap as well.”
Dickens opened eyes earlier in the Conference USA season, when in a home loss to Houston on Jan. 20, she had a Herd season-high 17 rebounds. That’s the most for a Marshall player since Modupe Ishola had 17 in a win over Wright State in December 2006 and only two C-USA players have had more in a conference game this season.
Dickens is averaging more than 31 minutes per game in the last six outings for a team with a short bench. Last season, as a sophomore who had spent one year at Highland Community College, the Freeport, Ill., native averaged 3.5 points and 13.5 minutes in 29 games, with 10 starts. She’s started 24 of 26 games in 2012-13.
A criminal justice major who wants to become a teacher, Dickens said she will graduate this spring, but plans to return for a final season of Herd hoops eligibility. She said she appreciates Daniel and his assistants for their willingness to ask players’ opinions and allowing the players to take some team ownership. She also likes the style of play.
“In junior college, we played fast, but not really with a set-up offense,” Dickens said. “We run plenty of plays, but we play fast. The idea is to get the ball up the floor and get open shots. If you move the ball, you can find open shots.”
There is one thing Dickens would like to change. She led Freeport high school to two Illinois state 3A tournament runner-up finishes in 2007-08 and ’08-09.
“I’m having fun, but it’s hard to have fun when you’re losing,” Dickens said. “That’s the difficult thing to deal with. We had leads in a lot of games that we’ve lost. I guess we’ve just got to work harder on closing games out.”
The Herd finishes its first home season under Daniel on Sunday at 2 p.m. against UCF (11-16, 5-8), then has a regular-season finale at Memphis on March 7 before the 12-team C-USA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla., from March 13-16.