By ROD GIPSON
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002
TAMPA -- Tom Mosca was concerned.
As coach of the University of Tampa women's basketball team, Mosca had just witnessed a 12-point, second-half lead transform into a 10-point loss against Montevallo. Mosca said he thought his team needed a shakeup, and those thoughts were confirmed a day later when the Spartans lost by nine to Georgia College & State.
But since that road trip to the Georgia College Tournament in late November, UT has won eight of 10 games thanks to a lineup change and a boost of energy.
"I just felt at that time we needed a change," Mosca said. "To lose is one thing. But the way we were losing was something different. So we decided to make a change."
The change was bringing reserves Amy Holmes, Andrea Nordholt and Juanita McClinton into the starting lineup. Holmes and McClinton filled the guard spots and the 5-foot-10 Nordholt has been playing forward. "Since the change, I think we have played better," said Mosca, who earned his 200th career coaching victory last month. "All around we have just been a better basketball team."
That would be hard to argue with.
Despite its 64-56 setback to No. 12 Rollins in the Sunshine State Conference opener Wednesday, the Spartans (9-4 overall, 0-1 in the SSC) have been playing well. After the 1-2 start to the season, UT ripped off seven consecutive wins and was wasn't threatened in the process. During the win streak, the Spartans enjoyed a 15-point average margin of victory.
While Nordholt, a junior, and Holmes, a sophomore, had previously started games in their UT careers, McClinton was a freshman with just 27 minutes of playing time before being inserted into the starting lineup. She responded in her first start with a team-high 22 points in 36 minutes.
And while McClinton has blossomed into one of the Spartans' top scorers (10 points per game average), some of the players replaced in the starting lineup have also continued to perform well.
Jessie McDowell, who has seen time at center and forward this season in her three starts, is still among UT's top contributors with 11 points per game. And Nicole Blair, who started the season's first two games at forward, has become a key reserve. Blair, who is second on the team in scoring with 13 points per game, led the Spartans against the Tars, netting 16 points in 23 minutes.
Mosca said his team's versatility could prompt more lineup tweaking if needed but that he was happy with the team's play for now.
The Spartans will have plenty of time to experiment before the conference tournament in early March. UT hosts Barry on Saturday before a game at Lynn on Jan. 16 and a home game against Saint Leo on Jan. 19.
"We're trying to find out where we are right now, but I feel good about the way we have been playing," Mosca said. "We were picked to finish third in the conference, so we're going to find out how we stack up."