The Clemson women’s basketball team shocked a lot of people last season by qualifying for its first NCAA tournament since 2002 and then went on to win its first tournament game since 2001.
But 2019-‘2020 is a new season and Clemson will play without last year’s stars from double-digit scorers Aliyah Collier, Simone Westbrook and Danielle Edwards. The roster features five freshmen and two transfers who have yet to play in a Clemson uniform.
Clemson enters the year with expectations from last season’s success as well, and a little adversity after a two-point loss in an exhibition game last week to Lander at Littlejohn Coliseum. Despite the challenges and pressures, head coach Amanda Butler gleamed with excitement as the Tigers open the regular season tonight against Furman at 7 p.m.
“It is a tremendous group of women with heart and an eagerness to do something special together not just in a championship way, but to impact each other’s lives and compete together every day,” Butler said. “When you have challenges or disappointment that is not what you always see but it has been good to see them respond that way.”
Butler and her staff are no stranger to adversity or expectations, and this team will not run from expectations but welcomes pressure with open arms. But the Clemson coach doesn’t want the expectations to pull the attention away from the task at hand.
“Who wants to live in a world without expectations? We want to be important and have expectations,” Butler said. “A certain amount of pressure comes with that and we need to learn how to manage that in a positive way that doesn’t turn into stress.”
“We cannot let any external expectations become a distraction for us and do our best to carve out an identity for Team 45 that is real and can withstand pressure against a tremendous non-conference schedule,” she continued.
The Lady Tigers face their first test from Furman. Last season the Paladins finished 19-14 and qualified for the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and were led by All-SoCon guard Le’Jzae Davidson.
Inexperience does not define this Furman team which returns 12 letter winners with only three incoming freshmen. The team earned preseason honors from league coaches who picked them as the favorite to win the SoCon.
Turnovers cost the Tigers against Lander and Butler knows her team must reverse the trend to beat the Paladins on tonight. But, she is ready to put Clemson to the test with real-game action to see where the team stands.
“This is a really good Furman team that’s experienced with a lot of returners from last year and with our new faces it is important for us to play games and start measuring ourselves,” Butler said. “We are excited to get started and see where we are.”
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