Monday, March 15, 2004
Women's NIT: Miami, Xavier and UC in
Musketeers square off against RedHawks at Cintas Center
By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer
No NCAA Tournament bids did not mean the end of the seasons for the Miami, Xavier and Cincinnati women's basketball teams.
All three received bids Sunday night to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
The Musketeers and RedHawks will play at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cintas Center in the first round. Tickets are $7 adults, $5 children.
The winner will play the winner of Iowa State-Idaho State.
"With such a young team, any postseason experience can be good," Xavier sophomore guard Kristy Wallner said. "The coaches have been trying to keep us focused and make us end on a positive note, and hopefully this will help us do that. The more games this team can play together, the more it helps us develop for next year."
The Bearcats, a disappointing 15-15, will play Western Kentucky at 8 p.m. Friday in Bowling Green, Ky. The winner will play the winner of Tulsa-Memphis.
UC is in the postseason for the seventh consecutive year, including four WNIT bids.
"We played a lot of great teams. We lost eight close games, six within seven points," UC coach Laurie Pirtle said. "In other words, we're a better team than our record. We had a good strength of schedule and a fairly high RPI."
Xavier (17-12, 8-8) finished its regular season in fourth place in the Atlantic 10 West. The Musketeers were knocked out of the A-10 tournament in the second round by eventual champion Temple.
"The kids were really upset, but it was kind of good to see," XU coach Kevin McGuff said. "We had a couple days off, but we've come back and been really competitive. ... It's good to finally have an opponent and go into normal preparation for the game."
Miami (21-8, 14-2) was the outright MAC regular-season champion, but the RedHawks lost to Bowling Green on a buzzer-beater in the MAC tournament semifinals to miss qualifying for their first NCAA Tournament. There was hope during the season that the MAC might get an NCAA at-large bid, but Miami's season-ending loss to Kent State and elimination from the tournament may have hurt its chances.
"You have to play every possession, unfortunately we were a possession off. ... We had control of our destiny," Miami coach Maria Fantanarosa said. "I feel we have three very strong seniors and I don't want their careers to end on a buzzer shot. The opportunity to play in a competitive tournament like the WNIT is tremendous."
Miami, which has won 13 of its last 15 games, will appear in its first WNIT. The RedHawks are led by seniors Colleen Day and Kim Lancaster, a Princeton High School graduate.
"They've had an outstanding season; they were clearly the best team in the MAC," McGuff said. "They can really score, get up and down the floor and shoot the ball well. They had a great non-conference schedule and experienced upperclassmen, so we'll have our hands full."
This will be the Musketeers' second appearance in the WNIT, their first in six years.
Xavier has made the postseason six of the last seven years, its only absence coming in 2002.
Miami leads the all-time series 9-7, but Xavier has won five of the last six. They last played December 1999.
UC was 5-9 in Conference USA play and 1-1 in the postseason conference tournament. It had been picked to finish third in the league but ended up placing ninth.
Senior Valerie King is the team's leading scorer at 15.7 points a game.
Pirtle was happy for King and fellow senior Brittani Young.
"This is another chance for the seniors to do something to make the season memorable," Pirtle said. "Maybe it's not the way we had wanted it (NCAA), but it's another chance to play again."
Western Kentucky is 18-13 and lost its opportunity at an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament when it lost in the championship game of the Sun Belt tournament (79-57) to Middle Tennessee.
Mark Curnutte and Mark Schmetzer contributed to this report.
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Which Xavier win was bigger: UC when the Bearcats were ranked No. 1 or No. 1 St. Joseph's?