Analysis: Lady Panthers’ Future Is Bright, Despite Loss To UNC

By Yolande Lezine
Updated: March 19, 2007

Prairie View A&M Lady PanthersHOUSTON — The future of the Prairie View A&M Lady Panthers women’s basketball team is bright, despite a 57-point loss to top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the Dallas Regional of the Women’s NCAA Tournament held at the University of Pittsburgh’s Peterson Events Center.

The Lady Panthers 95-38 loss in the first round, was the lowest point total and largest margin of defeat. Prairie View’s most memorable season may have come to an end, but the achievements that were accomplished this season are only a preview of what’s to come in the very near future.

They celebrated a season of several firsts: first winning season (19-14); first share of a SWAC regular season championship; first SWAC tournament championship; and their first berth to the Women’s NCAA tournament to play in the big dance.

The excitement for the future is sure to carry over into the off-season. “I’m very excited about the future, ” Prairie View freshman guard Candice Thomas stated.

“We learned a lot, by coming here and now we know where we have to go, what we have to do, and where we want to go.” The bar has been set to go higher and higher.

The matchup against third ranked North Carolina (31-3) wasn’t expected to be close. However, the experience was good. The Lady Panthers lost to three eventual NCAA invitees by an average of 41 points during the regular season.

They suffered losses to Oklahoma State (80-39), their previous season low for points, Baylor and Notre Dame. Notre Dame will now face North Carolina in the second round and Oklahoma State lost in the first round ,70-66, to Bowling Green.

You can always expect the NCAA to put a ranked team against an unranked team, just to get them an easy win. The funny part about that is when you look at the teams reflecting each school, you have a team filled with predominantly black players.

It’s the black players who supply the highest percentage of money that comes into the NCAA from sports memorabilia. So what might have been an embarassment to some, will only be a stepping stone for Prairie View.

Not too many teams can say that they had the opportunity to accomplish the things that these women have. Playing nervously, Prairie View allowed the Lady Tar Heels to build up an 11-0 lead.

That lead just kept growing until it was 57-15 at intermission. In the end, the Tar Heels got more points from their bench (41) and just as many off turnovers (38) as Prairie View scored overall.

“Prairie View, no matter what the score was, played hard,” said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell. The Panthers returnees from last year’s 7-21 team and the coach’s new recruits were picked to finish second-to-last in the SWAC this season.

However, they turned in a record-setting year ending with a nine-game winning streak and a 17-3 win streak into the NCAA’s. “North Carolina was bigger, stronger, and faster than we were,” Panthers coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said.

“I’m very proud of our young ladies. We’re very young with eight freshman and three sophomores. We have a bright future.”