Lynn native Alex Huffman feels she couldn’t have asked for a better start to her senior season with the Middlebury College women’s basketball team. The Panthers are averaging 69.7 points per game this season, shooting 43.7 percent from the floor and holding opponents to 44.8 points per contest. Middlebury has been dominant off the glass, out-rebounding opposing teams by 20 boards per tilt. Add it all up and Middlebury’s off to a 12-0 start this winter.
“This was definitely expected of ourselves,” Huffman, a 2015 KIPP Academy graduate, said. “I feel people didn’t expect this from us. This year, we’re putting in a ton of work in the gym to make sure we’re knocking down our shots. Our defense has been great and I think that has been the key to our start.
“This is exactly what you want for your senior season,” Huffman continued. “I’ve been playing basketball all my life. The icing on the cake would be if we win the NESCAC Championship this season.”
Middlebury’s starting point guard, Huffman has started every game since her sophomore season (2016-2017). She’s averaging 24.6 minutes, 4.9 points and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 35.5 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line. Although she isn’t one of the taller players on the roster (Huffman measures at 5’5”) the senior has helped push the rebound margin in Middlebury’s favor. Huffman’s grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game.
“It kind of comes out of nowhere,” Huffman, who majors in political science with a minor in American studies, said of her rebounding numbers. “It kind of doesn’t make sense that I’m getting so many rebounds because I’m so short. There’s no play that’s drawn up or anything like that. As soon as the shot’s up, I’m sprinting toward the hoop. It’s something that’s working out for me and I’m glad it is.”
Aside from contributing in the post, Huffman has made it a point to be more aggressive offensively. She described herself as a “pass-first” point guard but has looked to take more quality shots as of late. In last Friday’s win at NESCAC rival Connecticut College, Huffman scored a season-high 12 points. She scored 11 points the next day in a win over Wesleyan, also a conference opponent.
“The big focus is to be more assertive on offense,” Huffman said. “If you look at my stats over the past few years, I’ve been more of a passer than a shooter. The past couple games I’ve been taking more shots so I’m hoping to continue to be aggressive in looking for shots along with helping my teammates.”
Middlebury made quick work of the non-conference part of its schedule and is 2-0 in NESCAC play, which tipped-off this past weekend. Those on the outside looking in might say the Panthers merit an asterisk on their undefeated start but Middlebury isn’t paying attention to outside noise. The Panthers are taking it one game at a time and Huffman said they feel confident with the bulk of conference play coming up.
“We definitely feel a lot of pressure because a lot of people don’t respect what we’ve done,” Huffman said. “They don’t think we’ve played any good teams. A lot of people will say, ‘you haven’t played anybody ranked.’ We can definitely rise to the occasion and we’re ready to do that this season, especially with league play starting this semester.
“The competition has stepped up,” Huffman added, “and it’s only going to get better as we play the teams at the top of the league.”
Although Middlebury, VT is a three-and-a-half hour drive from Lynn, Huffman’s family often makes the trip to support her at games. And she appreciates the support.
“My family goes to tons of games,” Huffman said. “They were just there this past weekend. It’s like a three-and-a-half hour drive but it’s nice when you have the beautiful mountains in Vermont to look at. Last year we played at Emerson, so sometimes the schedule works out where we have games in the Boston area which makes it easier for my family to travel to.”
Huffman and the Panthers visit Westfield State Tuesday evening (5:30).