Muskies excited for NCAA Tournament first round
Athletics - posted on 3/4/2010
HOLLAND, MICH. - The Lakeland College women's basketball team opens first-round play in the 2010 NCAA Championship Tournament against DePauw (Ind.) on Friday, Mar. 5.
The Muskies (22-6, 13-4 NAC) clinched the Northern Athletics Conference Tournament championship and the NAC automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament with a 71-60 win against Benedictine on Saturday, Feb. 27 at Moose & Dona Woltzen Gymnasium. After cutting down the net and celebrating with family and friends, they learned on Monday that they would be traveling to Holland, Mich., for a first round game against the 11th ranked DePauw Tigers of the Southern Collegiate Athletics Conference.
Lakeland returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003-04. With none of the 16 players having experienced post-season play, the team is excited heading into Friday's opening game.
"There's excitement that we made it," Lakeland senior Terra Hiben said. "We have nothing to lose tomorrow and we're going to play our hearts out."
The Muskies will face a DePauw squad that is used to playing in March. The Tigers are playing in their seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament after winning the SCAC automatic bid with a dominant 63-37 win over Centre. Winners of 21 straight, they lead the NCAA with a rebounding margin of 17.1 and pose a serious threat inside.
"DePauw is a strong rebounding team," Lakeland head coach Teri Johnson said. "They average 18 offensive rebounds per game, and we're going to have to limit their second chances. We haven't seen a team this season that crashes the boards as hard as they do."
DePauw averages 72.3 points per game despite lacking a scorer averaging in double digits. However, the Tigers feature seven players who score at least 6.8 points per game. They are led by senior Erin Marshall's 9.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Hiben stressed that the Muskies will have to be on in all facets of their defensive game tomorrow.
"We can't single any one player out, but we have to box out and grab rebounds," Hiben said. "It will be important that we force them into taking shots that they don't want and don't give DePauw second chances."
Lakeland will need to be on top of its game defensively as they look to create additional offensive chances. DePauw turns over the ball just 14 times per game, the fourth fewest in the nation.
"We're going to have to work extra hard to create more turnovers," Johnson said. "I'm confident in our defense that we can force a team to commit more turnovers that they're used to."
Senior KC Blahnik will likely be the focal point of the Muskies' offense once again. The Gladstone, Mich., native has led the team in scoring 16 times this season. The Northern Athletics Conference 2009-10 Player of the Year, she is averaging 15.3 points per game with a .441 shooting percentage. Going against a defense that allows 50.5 points per game hasn't changed how Lakeland will run its offense on Friday.
"We're sticking with the same plan we've used all year," Dennewitz said. "We need to create offense out of our defense, but we haven't put in anything new."
Lakeland and DePauw tip off on Friday, Mar. 5 at 4:30 p.m., with the victor moving on to face the winner of Hope /Denison on Saturday, Mar. 6, at 6 p.m. For live commentary before, during and after the game, check the Lakeland Twitter page at www.twitter.com/lcmuskies. For live stats and other information, visit the regional tournament website at http://www.hope.edu/pr/athletics/wbb/10regionals.html.
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