By William Qualkinbush
CLEMSON — Despite the Clemson women’s basketball team’s 63-47 loss to N.C. State on Sunday, there is reason for optimism for the Lady Tigers. Head coach Itoro Coleman spelled it out in her postgame comments when she mentioned the opportunity that awaits her team over the next week.
“The good news is that everybody qualifies for the ACC Tournament,” Coleman said, “and anything can happen in the postseason. It’s a new season right now. We definitely want to learn the lessons from this game and move forward.”
One of the lessons Coleman learned is that she can lean on freshman guard Aisha Turner for more of the scoring load for her team. Turner has needed to mature into the starting point guard role this season, a position she inherited due to injuries and attrition.
But Turner’s career-high 14-point performance on Sunday underscored an important point about the Lady Tigers, who have won three of their final five regular season games. The young unit, void of seniors, is showing signs of improvement at the right time.
“I think we’re gelling so much better right now,” Coleman said. “There’s definitely chemistry right now. They’re understanding the sets and what we want defensively.”
Turner is one of the primary examples of progress in the program over the course of the season. She is the third-leading scorer on the team and the second-best three-point shooter. As a 22-game starter at point guard, Turner is also the team leader in assists with 101 and ranks second in steals with 47.
As far as Sunday’s performance, the Freshman All-ACC candidate says she was determined to do whatever she could to help her team win.
“I was just playing,” she said. “I’m a little bit more confident in taking my shot and helping my team get points on the board.”
Turner knows there are more experienced point guards that are poised to lead their respective teams through the ACC Tournament, but that knowledge does not keep the youngster from going after plays on the court. As she learns the game, Coleman says Turner has become fun to watch with her athleticism and ability to finish shots.
“When we get that consistent effort from her, the sky’s the limit for her,” the Lady Tiger coach said. “She can definitely shoot it. She has great vision for the court. She defends, when she wants to. She’s a freshman, and it’s been really neat to see her growth from day one. She’s played hard, and we’ve depended on her, especially in close situations.”
The Lady Tigers will prepare for a rematch with the Wolfpack on Thursday at the ACC Tournament, and as they do, they will be mindful of the future. But there is also the task at hand, which Coleman feels more comfortable about now that her point guard’s confidence is at an all-time high.