The Wichita State women's basketball team still has things to sort out.
An 11-game non-conference slate seemed to introduce more questions than it settled entering Missouri Valley Conference play today.
But the key, according to coach Jody Adams, is for this team, with five first-year players and little experience, to just be on the court playing together. The Shockers (6-5) open conference play tonight against Evansville at Koch Arena.
"These guys still need to learn a lot," Adams said. "They have great talent, but they need to improve on the details. When the details improve, the team play improves.
"... It's the lack of playing together for a long period of time and that's where you have to continue to teach team togetherness and unity and those types of things," Adams said.
The buzz phrase this season has been improving as a team.
That not only means on the basketball court, but also off it. The coaching staff has arranged numerous team-bonding activities, including a trip to Wesley Hospital's children's pediatric ward on Thursday.
"It can be seen both ways," Adams said. "On the court, this is a team that has only known each other for a year. And then off the court, I think those things are very valuable too."
A perfect opportunity to restore confidence awaits the Shockers with their two-game homestand to begin Valley play. After playing Evansville (5-6), which was the preseason pick to finish last in the conference, the Shockers will host Southern Illinois (2-9), picked ninth, on Sunday.
But at this point, nothing is a given for this team.
"The Valley is a whole different season," senior Morgan Boyd said. "It's all about being mentally strong. The Valley picks at you. It points out your weaknesses. That's why it's important for us to stay together as a team and stay mentally prepared."
So far this season WSU has showed resiliency by not losing in back-to-back games. The Shockers are coming off a 98-73 defeat at Central Michigan on Dec. 22.
"We don't back down from challenges," Boyd said. "We take them on."