Playing alongside star seniors Jennifer Jones and Flecia Comeaux may make senior guard Alicia Rodriguez and her contributions to the University of Houston women's basketball team easy to overlook.
However, her role as a defensive specialist has earned her great appreciation from her teammates and coach throughout her four year career.
For the last three years, Rodriguez has been in the top five in assists and steals, and last year she led the team in steals. She started all 29 games despite averaging only six points.
"She doesn't score a lot of points for us, but she sets the tone for us defensively," said UH head coach Jessie Kenlaw. "For defensive purposes, I would sub her in and pull her out when we get on an offensive run. She knows her role on the team is to be a defensive specialist, not a big scorer."
This year, despite missing the game against New Mexico State because of a sprained ankle (her first missed game in two years), she is second on the team in assists (3.0 apg), fourth in steals (19) and, surprisingly, third in blocked shots with seven.
"I feel very comfortable playing defense, and I think that a basketball game is won or lost on defense," Rodriguez said.
Along with her defensive accolades, Rodriguez has had three games scoring double digits, including a season-high 13 points against Southeastern Louisiana. But while she is capable of putting up big numbers, Rodriguez knows her role on the team.
"I know I can play defense, and I know I'm not a shooter, so it would be ridiculous for me to shoot a three-pointer," she said "I just try to do what I do best and not do bad on what I can't do best."
Although the Lady Cougars are in the bottom of Conference USA with a slim chance of winning either the regular season or conference championship title, Rodriguez has a positive yet humble outlook on her team's chances.
"The tournament is just a whole new phase of the game," she said. "You just have to go there, execute, be confident and take it one game at a time. And anybody can win the tournament."