New UC women's coach Collins debuts with win
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Adam Collins era is off and running at the University of Charleston.
The Golden Eagles, in their first game under the former University of Texas of the Permian Basin coach, ran away from visiting Slippery Rock in the second half on the way to a 93-76 women's basketball win at Eddie King Gymnasium.
Collins, who led UTPB to an appearance in the 2011 NCAA Division II tournament and was honored as the Heartland Conference coach of the year, replaced longtime UC coach Sherry Winn during the offseason.
Winn coached the Golden Eagles to three NCAA tournament appearances and posted a 237-100 record in 11 years at UC.
"I was a little nervous," Collins said about his feelings before the Slippery Rock game. "I wanted to make a good first impression. Sherry Winn was a great coach and has a great reputation. I didn't want everybody in here to think, 'Where is this thing going now that she's gone?' It was good for us to put a win and a good effort on the board and maybe give the fans something they can see for the future."
Historically Collins' teams have liked to get up and down the court and score points in bunches, and if Saturday's game is any indication that trend will hold true at UC.
"We had a good run in Texas but I kind of felt like I had gone as far as I could possibly go with them," Collins said. "I wanted an opportunity to try and win a national championship and I felt that Charleston is a good place to be."
One player on the Charleston roster, senior Jessi Cowden, has prior experience playing for Collins. Cowden transferred to UC from UTPB prior to this season and said in her experience Collins' intensity on the bench can be contagious.
"He's a very intense coach but he gets us fired up when we need to and that's what we need," she said. "It gets us going. When he's mad we should be mad too because we're doing something wrong and need to get going and playing the way he wants us to play. If we listen to him we're going to win."
UC led Slippery Rock 35-33 at halftime but needed that boost of intensity after falling behind early in the second half.
UC kept firing from 3-point range after connecting on just 3 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half and eventually the shots started to fall for the Golden Eagles. UC clawed its way back into the game and kept up a torrid pace to pull away from Slippery Rock in the game's final 10 minutes.
"I think with as many 3s as we take and as fast as we play we are going to go in streaks," Collins said. "There's going to be streaks where we don't shoot the ball so well for a couple of minutes then streaks where we're on fire. You've got to live and die on that. We've got to do a better job of playing hard defensively and doing the small things when the shots aren't falling. You can't just rely on making shots and scoring points all the time."
UC finished the game 13 of 31 from long-range, including four from LeAnn Ross, three from Nichole Perry and three from Cowden.
Ross finished with a team-high 20 points for UC while Perry - seeing extensive playing time at point guard after senior Crissy Keir left the game after taking an elbow to the head - scored 19 and Cowden finished with 15.
"We probably got some jitters out in the first half with it being the first home game," Cowden said. "Shots will fall if you keep shooting it."
Tianna Kelly had seven rebounds to lead Charleston while Keir accounted for six assists before leaving the game during the second half.
D'Asia Chambers led Slippery Rock (1-2) with 20 points and nine rebounds. Alexas Brown added 16 points and eight assists.
UC begins West Virginia Conference play at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday when the Golden Eagles host Davis & Elkins.
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.