Much like her counterpart on the men’s team, College of Charleston women’s basketball head coach Candace M. Jackson was thrown into the fire when it came to a competitive early season schedule with her new team.
Jackson, however, will be the first one to tell you that playing those high quality opponents is how you build your team.
The Cougars took on the likes of defending champion Connecticut, the Big 10’s Minnesota, the Big East’s Villanova and the American’s South Florida- all consecutively.
While Charleston suffered defeats in those contests, the Cougars went on to win three of their next five game following the loss to South Florida, including a double-digit win over Mercer to earn Jackson her first career victory.
With CAA play in full swing, Charleston has struggled somewhat, but not for lack of effort. The Colonial is highly competitive this season, with top dog James Madison riding an 11-game winning streak. After JMU, the next five teams in the standings are all within two games of each other.
The Cougars have played tough, dropping four CAA contests by single-digits, including Sunday afternoon’s tight affair with third place Elon.
On Monday’s CAA teleconference, Jackson spoke to how her team continues to fight as they wade through their schedule.
“What our girls are learning is that in every game, we’ve gotten better,” Jackson said. “The conference is tough, it is a hard league, so it’s not always the result we may want. We’re still learning, and it’s very much a teaching year.”
While the Cougars are learning on the fly with their first year coach, opposing veteran coaches made a point to commend Jackson and her team on their work ethic and continued improvement.
“It takes a little bit of time even though everyone wants instant success,” JMU head coach Kenny Brooks said. “In our one game against the College of Charleston this year, the thing that I came away with was that those kids never quit. We got up early and they could have hung their heads, but you could tell they were trying to adapt and they never gave up.”
Brooks’ counterpart at Delaware expressed the same optimism for the Charleston program.
“We’ve played [Charleston] twice and we’re 1-1 against them,” Delaware head coach Tina Martin said. “Like most young teams, they are better at home. I was impressed by how well they shared the ball and defensively Coach Jackson has them reacting very well. I like their attitude and demeanor, they have that never say die attitude and they come after you.”
Brooks and Martin have accounted for each of the past five CAA Tournament titles, so they know a thing or two about building a winning program and Martin gave one more comment about the Cougars’ future.
“There’s no question that in the future, they will be a program to be reckoned with. [Jackson] is doing a great job and the kids are playing hard, and that’s always the first step,” Martin said.
The Cougars will host Education Day at TD Arena on Friday morning at 11:30 against fourth place Hofstra. Like always, Jackson will have her ladies ready to compete and improve against another top flight team.
“Each game is taking something from the last game and improving on that, and then some,” Jackson said.