When the Maryville College women’s basketball team steps on the court for its USA South Athletic Conference opener today night it will do so with a level of confidence it has not had in years.
Beating one of the nation’s top teams will do that.
By the time today’s 6 p.m. home game against Brevard College tips off at Boydson Baird Gymnasium, the Scots will be five days removed from an upset of Transylvania, the No. 10-ranked team in the d3hoops.com national poll, on its home court.
There is a USA South doubleheader at Boydson Baird today. The Maryville men will face Covenant College following the women’s game.
The Maryville women (5-2) already had a quality road win over Emory & Henry, which was among the teams outside the top 25 but receiving votes in the latest national poll, but beating Transylvania 75-67 was on another level.
That the Scots had to rally from an 18-point second-half deficit in an uncomfortable environment made it even sweeter.
“It was a really good win for our team,” coach Darrin Travillian said. “I felt like when we got down big you’re talking about just playing two minutes at a time and get it to 10 (points). Then maybe two more minutes and we can get it down to six or seven. I love the way my kids fought back.
“Once we started getting it I looked over at (assistant coach) Jordan (Ballard) and said, ‘I think we’re going to pull this thing out.’ We started making shots. You could feel the momentum change.”
The biggest catalyst was junior guard Klaire Varney, who flirted with a quadruple-double like she did almost weekly last season.
Varney scored a career-high 32 points and added nine rebounds, eight steals and six assists. She had 19 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists in the game’s final 16 minutes. That performance made her a shoe-in for the USA South’s Player of the Week award.
The Scots didn’t follow Saturday’s win with another on Sunday. In fact, they blew a 13-point halftime lead in a 68-56 loss to Southern Virginia.
It was a bad spot after Maryville had spent so much energy in the second half the night before. The Scots simply ran out of gas. They also played the entire game without high-scoring freshman Courtney Carruthers, who sprained her ankle against Transylvania.
Travillian said it was a good lesson for the Scots as they embark on conference play. The USA South litters the regular season schedule with games on back-to-back days. Maryville has three of those weekends before the postseason begins. If the Scots get to the semifinals, they’ll have to play on back-to-back days again if they want to win the conference tournament title.
After such a strong performance during non-conference play, Maryville has its sights set on at least contending for the USA South title. The Scots quest begins Wednesday night with their first home game of the season.
“What I like is there is a good camaraderie,” Travillian said. “There’s a good vibe about sharing the basketball. Sometimes we get a little bit of tunnel vision, but when we share it we’re good. The big thing for us is if we rebound the ball it gets our transition going, and we’re really good in transition.”