Women's Hoops Trying to String Together Another 'W' at Saint Leo

Jackie Perez has added defense to her game, and the Bucs hope to follow suit to collect more wins. Photo by Joel Auerbach

SAINT LEO, Fla. -- Jackie Perez had to undergo a transformation. It's what the Buccaneers needed.

Perez, Barry University women's basketball team's sophomore guard, had grown used to her customary spot on the wing, waiting for someone else to get the ball to her so she could knock down a three. But midway through the season, the Buccaneers coaching staff moved Perez to point guard.

It was an adjustment for the streaky shooting Perez.

"My focus had to switch. I look at it as helping the team whichever way I can, being a versatile player," said Perez, who leads the team with 37 three-pointers. "Even it's an assist, I feel like I'm contributing."

Perez's transformation has been a process. It's an adjustment she and the Bucs have to work through. In the same way, the Bucs have had to change on the fly as well, adjusting as they prepare for a better postseason seed. Barry's win over Florida Southern bumped the Buccaneers out of the basement in the Sunshine State Conference.

Now they hope to string another win together at Saint Leo, where Barry (11-8, 3-7 SSC) meets the Lions (10-10, 5-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday. Saint Leo will be playing its annual Pink Out game to support breast cancer awareness.

Watch the game by clicking HERE. Follow the game via LIVE STATS.

Barry beat Saint Leo last month in Miami Shores, 81-68, for the Bucs' first conference win. Teresa Manigrasso had 15 points, Keishara Green and Chelsea Connelly each had 11 as five Lions scored in double figures in that game. The Lions went on to win three of their next four before dropping its past two since that game in Miami Shores.

"We can't take 'em lightly," Perez said of the Lions. "Just because we beat them the first time doesn't mean we're going to beat them again."

Dominique Dixon scored 20 for the Bucs in the first game against the Lions. Colette Eule and Perez each had 16 points. The three of them combined to dish out 14 assists. Now the distributing role is another Perez has embraced. And she's added some defense to her game as well.

Perez finished with a career-high six steals, matched her career-high with six assists and had 10 points without hitting a three in Wednesday's win. Her game is evolving into more of a complete player.

"I feel like (teams) are expecting the threes," Perez said. "I want to be a player that can provide in whichever way."

More than anything, she and her Bucs teammates want to keep winning. If the season ended today, Barry would be playing in the SSC Tournament play-in game in Kissimmee, Fla., on March 6. The eighth and ninth seeds meet each other in the play-in game. Separated by a half-game from Tampa for the seventh spot, Barry will need wins to avoid the play-in game and keep climbing in the league standings.

"It's hard to play when you're losing," Perez said. "I think (Wednesday's win) switched for most of us that we have to play with heart. I think we realized we could beat any team in this conference. We've been close in every game, but we're finally learning how to put teams away. The coaches do a great job of letting us know our mistakes and our weaknesses. I think we're prepared mentally, more than anything."

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