Wednesday, March 10, 2004

NCAA Tournament invitation takes NKU players by surprise

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Northern Kentucky women's basketball season was over. Or so they thought.

The Norse were eliminated from their conference tournament Thursday. Their record wasn't one of the top eight in their region to make the NCAA Tournament.

So the team stopped practicing and got ready for spring break. Leading scorer Connie Myers left for Sarasota, Fla.

Coach Nancy Winstel had the "very strange" feeling of not making it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years.

Or so she thought.

On Sunday, Winstel received a phone call from NKU associate athletics director Scott Eaton, saying she might want to get in touch with all of her players.

Sunday night, the NCAA championship committee picked NKU over higher-ranked Northern Michigan for the Great Lakes Region's final spot in the Division II NCAA Championships based on strength of schedule, Winstel said. The Norse women's spring break trips were re-routed to the D-II regionals in Quincy, Ill.

NKU will play top-seeded Quincy Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the tournament's opening round.

"It was a nice little surprise," Winstel said. "I spent all day Sunday making phone calls, tracking them down, telling them to stay put. It's been an interesting three days. Connie had her bags packed and was pretty much on the beach, or close to it. ... She and her mother spent all day yesterday trying to find a reasonable flight home."

On Tuesday night, Myers was scheduled to arrive for NKU's first practice after four days off to prepare for their surprise post-season.

"Last year, we lost in the second round (of the conference tournament) and didn't come back to practice until Tuesday, so I'm not concerned," Winstel said. "We have three days to prepare, and at this point in the season, three days should suffice."

The NKU women will face an experienced 26-4 Quincy team that beat them twice already this season. Winstel said the Norse need to overcome a pesky Lady Hawks' press that forced 35 NKU turnovers this season and find a consistent perimeter scorer in order to make it to the second round.

The winner will face Indianapolis or Bellarmine at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

NKU was last year's national runner-up, but graduated three starters from that squad.

THOMAS MORE: The Saints pulled off a surprise of their own Saturday, defeating No. 5 DePauw 68-63 to advance to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 for the second time in program history.

The Saints (21-5), who are on an 11-game winning streak, will host their first sectionals this weekend and will face Wilmington (23-6) Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Thomas More defeated Wilmington 79-75 in the season opener on Nov. 21.

If the Saints win, they will play either Buena Vista or Puget Sound at 7 p.m. Saturday at home for a trip to the D-III Final Four.

WITTENBERG: Led by local players Amber Bishop (Batavia) and Haley Warden (Indian Hill), Wittenberg also pulled an upset over the weekend in the D-III women's basketball tournament.

The Tigers beat No. 10 Messiah 51-48 Saturday to advance to their first Round of 16. Bishop scored 10 points, and Warden had 16 points and 13 rebounds in the game. Christina Fischer, from St. Ursula, and Alison Nahrup, from Mt. Notre Dame, also play for the Tigers.

Wittenberg plays Scranton at 5 p.m. Friday at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.



Tournament preview section

Conference USA teams see prominence arrive too late
Leader a quiet force for UC
Fan's guide to the C-USA tournament
C-USA Tournament tidbits
C-USA Tournament trivia

Pressure-cooker success may determine NCAA bids
Muskies' A-10 goal: Boost NCAA odds
Fan's guide to the A-10 Tournament
A-10 Tournament tidbits
A-10 Tournament trivia

C-USA gives Bobbitt its sixth-man award
UK begins planting NCAA No. 1 seed
NCAA Tournament invitation takes NKU players by surprise
Player who broke color barrier dies
Tournament scores & schedules