The women’s basketball team can’t stop winning. With a 99-72 victory over the University of La Verne Feb. 10, Chapman has now won 14 straight games. This is tied for the 10th longest winning streak in Division III, and the Panthers’ longest win streak since the 2006-07 season, when they won 17 straight.
Like so many games during this streak, the result never seemed to be doubt. In Chapman’s two games against La Verne this season, it has won by a combined margin of 62 points.
Despite La Verne head coach Jason Pruitt’s best efforts to motivate his players through persistent admonishment, he seemed to know the prospect of a win was far-fetched.
“We didn’t have a game plan,” Pruitt said. “We knew what we were going to get. (Head coach Carol Jue) has been doing the same thing for over a decade, so she’s not going to change.”
Pruitt said that La Verne (5-18, 3-11 in-conference) is suffering from a talent gap, and that the program will need a better recruiting class to accomplish its goal of being the No. 1-scoring team in the nation.
“We’re two recruiting classes behind,” Pruitt said. “We’re just playing with what was left behind.”
La Verne’s players looked exasperated trying to keep up with the fervent pace of Chapman’s full-court defensive pressure and up-tempo, pass-first offense. Chapman constantly clogged passing lanes and hurried ball handlers.
In the third quarter alone, Chapman forced 13 turnovers. In total, Chapman had 10 more assists than La Verne and scored 43 points off of 34 La Verne turnovers.
“Defense is our No. 1 mentality,” said senior guard Jaime Hum-Nishikado. “Defense is what coach (Jue) really strives for. That’s the work behind every second of every practice. It’s always defense.”
While both coaches were constantly yelling, they exhibited very different body language. During timeouts, Jue often huddled close to her players and kneeled down to coach them at eye level. Pruitt drew a different figure, often coaching down to his players as they were seated on the bench.
As La Verne struggled to find its offensive consistency, the Panthers got into their offense tactfully. Players only put the ball on the floor if they were capable ball handlers. They switched on defense quickly and passed the ball on offense even quicker.
“It’s a testament to the kids,” said Jue. “It’s the players buying into what I’m selling, drinking my Kool-Aid. A lot of it is having them be unselfish. We do have some people who score more than others, but the thing is that they’re willing to pass the ball.”
That passing resulted in a career-high 23 points for freshman forward Brittany McPherson, who was excited, if not surprised, by her scoring total.
“I really didn’t know,” McPherson said. “I honestly did not think that I scored that much. Someone came up to me after the game and told me.”
Chapman, which has already secured a playoff berth, has two games left in its regular season schedule: a home game Feb. 14 against Occidental College, and an away game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Feb. 17. If Chapman and CMS win their next games and Chapman loses its final game at CMS, a coin toss would decide home court advantage.
Pruitt expects Chapman to win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championship this season, and said Jue has shown throughout her 14-year tenure at Chapman that size doesn’t guarantee success.
“Coach Jue has proven that you don’t need a post player to win in this conference,” Pruitt said. “It is a fact. She does not have height, but she has talent. And they play hard and they play together. That’s why she’s a hall of fame coach.”
Jue, who graduated from Claremont McKenna College, said she badly wants to avoid a coin flip against CMS, which Chapman beat Jan. 13, but lost to in both regular season games and the SCIAC championship game last season.
“I’m sick of losing to my alma mater,” Jue said. “I’m hoping that’s not going to happen (this season).”
Chapman has never won a SCIAC title, but Hum-Nishikado, who has played in four SCIAC playoff games, is confident that will change this season.
“I think this is our year,” Hum-Nishikado said. “(The SCIAC championship) is going to be ours.”