Off to a 12-3 start with an 18.2 point scoring margin, the women’s basketball team has been firing on all cylinders both offensively and defensively. With lopsided victories against Sarah Lawrence College, Farmingdale State College, and Baruch College, while defeating tough UAA opponents Brandeis University and the University of Rochester, the Violets are proving to be a dominant force in the UAA Conference. In addition to a scorching offense that is averaging 80.3 points per game and a suffocating defense that is only allowing 62.1 points per game, the continuity from last season is the main catalyst to this incredible start.
“We only graduated one senior last year so for the most part, we returned the entire team,” Steinhardt junior Janean Cuffee stated. “We also got a lot of new talented freshmen who have helped us bring the team to a higher level. The team chemistry and experience on the court together has been the biggest help in having our team improve as a whole.”
From averaging 1.3 points per game in her freshman campaign to averaging a team-high and potential NYU record-high 22.0 points per game, Cuffee’s breakout season has sparked the Violets’ offense to an increase of 15.2 points per game from last season. Cuffee has already scored 33 points against Stevens, 34 points against Wesleyan and a season-high 37 points against St. John Fisher. Cuffee credits her breakout to her coaches and teammates.
“I would say the biggest thing that helped me improve my game was having coaches and teammates that believed in me,” Cuffee stated. “My coaches put me in position to score when I am on the floor and I have unselfish teammates who find me when I’m open. Without a team and staff that support me and believe in my ability to score, the points per game average never would have increased.”
After leading the team in scoring with 18.0 points per game in her sophomore year and scoring 39 points, the third-highest points scored in a game in NYU history, against Cabrini University, many expected Cuffee to make the leap this season.
“[Her breakout season] really started last year and has carried over into this season in terms of her teammates knowing how to play with her and finding her hotspots,” Coach Meg Barber stated. “She is having the confidence to take big shots and also to play both ends of the floor. It is a carryover and she played a lot of minutes in the UAA last year so she is used to the grind and what that feels like on a daily basis throughout the semester.”
On the court, the chemistry is clear as the team trusts Cuffee both offensively and defensively. This trust leads to the biggest factor of success: having fun.
“On the court, I know that I can trust Janean,” CAS senior and captain Annie Barrett stated. “She’s our go-to scorer, and when I’m pushing the ball in transition, I’m always looking to get it to her. I trust her on the offensive and defensive end. Janean and I complement each other really well on the court. Our styles of playing blend well together and allows us to have fun which translates to success.”
Off the court, Cuffee’s hard work and perseverance make her a favorite among the rest of the team.
“Honestly, she’s a great person,” CAS senior and captain Mikaela Read stated. “She works so hard that you can’t help but root for her when she succeeds on the court. I’ve been with her for three years, and she’s one year below me, but in those three years, she’s been a great friend, she’s loyal, she has your back, and she is a fun person.”
The fact that Cuffee is a junior who has improved every season is exciting; she still has her senior year ahead of her. However, Cuffee has remained focused and has high hopes for the rest of the season.
“If I am being completely honest, I have only focused on this year,” Cuffee stated. “Conference play is the most important part of the season as the competition increases and I have high hopes that we will finish the season, the same way we began: fighting hard and competing in every game to win.”
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, print edition. Email Arvind Sriram at [email protected]