From the start of the season, head coach Coquese Washington preached patience in the game of junior forward Ariel Edwards.
The Elmont, N.Y. native, started the season off in a different role than she had been comfortable with — this year she began starting.
Even though the No. 11 Lady Lions returned four out of their five starters from last year, Washington said early on it takes a while for a player to develop her role in a group that has played together most of their collegiate careers.
Yet, Edwards never found her comfort zone as a starter. In her six games that she started, she scored more than 10 points only once, which was 24 against Detroit.
The 2011-12 Academic All-Big Ten forward was averaging only 3.83 rebounds a game in those six games. Compared to last season, she saw a .57 decrease in her rebounds.
Those statistics did not go over well with assistant coach Kia Damon’s preseason prediction about Edwards at the Lions’ media day in October.
“We want her to be a stat stuffer,” Damon said. “Across the board we expect Ariel to put up positive numbers in each column.”
Edwards has started to do that since being moved to come off the bench.
In a small sample size, Edwards has played three games as the sixth man role to average 13 points per game with 4.33 rebounds.
Some may assume the 6-foot-3 forward would battle confidence issues, but that doesn’t appear to be the case as Edwards said Sunday, after the blowout win against Georgetown, 97-74, that adjustments are just a part the game of basketball
“It is a little hard to explain,” Edwards said, “but basically if I see that something is not working or I feel like something isn't right or if my coaches tell me that I am not doing something right then I will make those changes.”
One part of Edwards’ game that has remained the same no matter the role is her defensive capabilities. Washington has complimented her on several different occasions, most recently against Georgetown.
The Christ the King high school alumnus and redshirt junior guard Dara Taylor teamed up to limit Georgetown’s leading scorer Sugar Rodgers’ effectiveness, who averages 24.2 points per game.
While Rodgers scored 24 points against Penn State, she went 8-for-22 from the field.
“I thought the combination of Ariel and Dara's speed with Ari's height and size, we were able to mix up looks for her, and I thought that worked to our advantage, especially [in the] first half,” Washington said.
As the season progresses, Washington appears to finally have figured out her rotations after she said she exchanged Taylor for Edwards in order to increase speed.
The Maryland transfer, Taylor, has thrived since replacing Edwards. In three starts, she has averaged seven points with four assists per game, which bodes well for the Lions down the stretch.
“As we told people when we were watching them on tape, ‘You could see them in New Orleans [at the Final Four] if they get the right matchups and a couple of their substitutions progress,’ ” Lafayette head coach Dianne Nolan said after losing to the Lions on Nov. 18.