Despite ending their season with a 77-70 road loss to Minnesota in the National Invitation Tournament, the SMU women’s basketball team (18-14) can look back on the 2013-14 season with pride, knowing all they have accomplished.
This season was the first since 2000 in which the Mustangs won a postseason tournament game, having defeated Texas Southern 84-72 behind senior guard Keena Mays’ performance.
Mays finished the first round of the WNIT game with a game-high 32 points to go with her six assists and career-best seven steals.
The Arlington-native finished the season as the program’s single-season points champion with 691; eight more than the previous record holder, Head Coach Rhonda Rompola.
While Mays is a sure thing when it comes to getting into SMU’s Hall Of Fame for her two excellent seasons with the school, she should be joined someday by senior forward and double-double machine, Akil Simpson.
Simpson finishes her illustrious career as a Mustang with 1,234 points, good for 13th on the all-time list at SMU.
She also finished the year with ten games in which she recorded at least 10 points and 10 rebounds, something Rompola was grateful for all year.
Even with the departure of these two players, SMU looks to be in a good position for many seasons, as young performers will have their chance to shine in Mays’ and Simpson’s places.
Junior Destynee Hives-McCray will return from a season-ending illness, while sophomore Gabrielle Wilkins and first-year Kiara Perry hope to continue what became a very strong end to the season in an effort to get back to the NCAA tournament.
Considering the strength of SMU’s schedule for the foreseeable future though, that might be a tough task.
The Mustangs moved out of Conference USA to take on a much stiffer level of competition in the American Athletic Conference this past year, where two of 2013’s final four teams in the Women’s NCAA tournament presided.
With that increased challenge came some down moments in the season, as the defending national champion, the University of Connecticut, won both matchups against SMU by a combined score of 183-89.
But despite those defeats, SMU posted a winning record thanks to another stellar season from Rompola’s squad and a rejuvenated fan base that came out in droves like never before.
SMU’s home game versus UConn Feb. 25 yielded the largest crowd for any women’s basketball game in school history, and helped the school to an average of 2,386 per contest at new Moody.
With some luck and a few key players stepping up, SMU women’s basketball will take its success from the 2013-14 campaign and translate it into an even better future for its fan base that’s already gaining a taste for excellence inside Moody Coliseum.