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January 15, 2013

Ravens Focus: Wittenberg adds depth for AU

Junior has emerged as another scoring option for Ravens

ANDERSON, Ind. — Jenna Wittenberg knew from the moment she first stepped on campus that Anderson University was the right fit for her.

It took a little while longer to find the right role on the women’s basketball team, but if last week’s results are any indication, that fit is becoming comfortably snug as well.

“Amy and Ashley (Wuestefeld) have had to carry a big load for us,” AU coach Marcie Taylor said. “We’ve needed that third person to step up and be consistent. And Jenna is starting to do some of that for us.”

Wittenberg scored 33 combined points last week in a win against Rose-Hulman and a loss to Bluffton. Her 19-point effort against the Engineers to start the week was her second-highest scoring total of the season — trailing only a 20-point game against Earlham on Dec. 15 — and she’s reached double-figures in five of her past eight games.

As a junior, Wittenberg ranks as an elder statesman this season. She said the Ravens have a nice mix of upperclass leadership and underclass talent, and it’s time for the team to start putting it all together.

“I feel like we’re definitely making strides on offense,” Wittenberg said. “We’re getting better every game, and we’re ready for an upset against one of the highly ranked teams.”

Anderson (4-11, 3-5 HCAC) will get a shot at such an upset today at Hanover (11-4, 5-3).

The Ravens are in the thick of the postseason tournament race, tied with Bluffton for the sixth and final spot in the field. Hanover trails Transylvania by just two games for the league lead, and just three games separate Anderson from the second-place tie between Franklin and Defiance.

The trip to Hanover concludes the first half of the conference season for the Ravens, and the tightly bunched standings promise an exciting second half.

“This year the conference is really even,” Wittenberg said. “Anybody can win on any night. It’s a great thing for us. A bad loss doesn’t hurt you as much as it did in the past.”

Taylor said at the start of the year she believed this young team would improve as the season wore on.

There have been clear signs of progress recently, but Anderson might have taken a step back with Saturday’s 79-64 loss at Bluffton.

At Hanover tonight, the Ravens will face a team that suffocates opponents with relentless pressure. A win would verify the team’s belief it’s getting closer to the schools at the top of the league standings.

Taylor knows her players have done plenty of work in practice. She’s seen the glimmer of recognition in their eyes, the lightbulb that goes off when players stop thinking about what they need to do next and begin acting on instinct.

“Really it’s just about the consistency of the decision-making now,” Taylor said. “It’s all about the six inches between your ears.”

Wittenberg believes her teammates are ready to take the next step.

“We definitely haven’t peaked, yet,” she said. “We’re right on the cusp of getting on a roll. Hopefully, we’ll be a dangerous team down the stretch.”

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