Women's Basketball States Its Case for NCAA Tournament Run

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
 

Men’s lacrosse

NCAA women's basketball As Muhlenberg’s section of the bracket was revealed during Monday’s NCAA Tournament selection show, women’s basketball senior Katy Rossino ticked off a list of states she’s never been to: Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois and the state the Mules are headed to, Ohio.

For Rossino and her teammates, where they have been might be more relevant than where they haven’t.

Centennial Conference champion Muhlenberg (22-5) will travel to Mount Union for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend. The Mules, who are ranked 25th in the latest poll released by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, are scheduled to play Catholic on Friday at 5:00. If they win, they’ll face the winner of the game between La Roche and sixth-ranked Mount Union on Saturday at 7:00.

Catholic (22-5), the champion of the Landmark

women's basketball seniors
Seniors Kimberly Mui, Alexandra Chili, Kathleen Naddaff and Rossino (left to right) have posed with the CC trophy three times in their four years. Their career record of 92-21 ties the Class of 2009 (also 92-21) for most wins by a senior class and includes an 11-4 mark in the postseason.
Conference, is making its first NCAA appearance. The Mules, on the other hand, are veterans of the national stage, having played seven NCAA Tournament games the last three years.

“It’s very beneficial to us,” said Rossino of the team’s postseason experience. “We know we can go into these big games and win. We know what it’s like to be in pressure situations and make every possession count.”

Of course, Catholic wouldn’t be in the NCAA Tournament if it wasn’t able to handle pressure situations. The Cardinals won the Landmark championship by defeating Scranton and then-No. 10 Juniata, both on the road.

Muhlenberg and Catholic have a lot in common: They share the color red, they have the same record, and they both won their conference titles as the third seed, defeating a nationally ranked team on its

Erin Laney
Sophomore Erin Laney scored eight points in last year's NCAA Tournament win at Rochester. She has averaged 7.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in the last four games.
home court in the final. They also have four common opponents, with the most glaring difference in the results being the Mules' sweep of Washington College. The Cardinals lost to the Shorewomen twice, both times at home.

“We try not to make too much of that,” said Rossino. “It happens all the time, like in our conference Haverford beating Johns Hopkins twice. We just have to try to play to the best of our ability and approach the game as best as we can.”

Catholic is a strong defensive team. The Cardinals rank in the top 30 in Division III in field-goal percentage defense (.312), rebound margin (plus-8.6) and scoring defense (51.2 points per game). They also are averaging more than 20 turnovers a game.

Muhlenberg ranks 17th in turnover margin (plus-6.26), 19th in fewest turnovers per game (14.9) and 35th in scoring offense (70.7 points per game). The latter number was close to 80 for most of the early part of the season, but lately the Mules have found themselves in some low-scoring games.

The lowest of the low-scoring games was a 51-47 win against Franklin & Marshall in the CC semifinals. It was the first time in five years that the Mules won when scoring fewer than 55 points and demonstrated the season-long evolution of a team that averaged 45.4 points in the first half of its first five games.

“It’s interesting to go from averaging 80-plus points to winning a tournament game with 51 points,” said Rossino. “It was a hard-fought defensive game. We’ve had more of a defensive focus the last few weeks. Before the F&M game, when we watched film, we only watched defense.’

The focus was worth it, as Muhlenberg allowed only 100 points and 25.4-percent shooting in its two CC playoff wins. Now the Mules will take their new defensive mindset to the NCAA Tournament, where games tend to have lower scores, in the hopes of extending their season to the “Sweet 16” for the third time in four years.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an expectation,” said Rossino of advancing past the first weekend. “Our main goal is always to win the conference, and anything after that is a bonus. We’ve been to the ‘Sweet 16’ twice so it’s more of a I-hope-that’s-not-the-farthest-we-go type of thing.

“We’re very excited about the draw that we got. We feel we were placed in a bracket we can do well in.”
Click here for coverage of the selection show, courtesy WFMZ Channel 69 and Service Electric TV2.
Click here for the tournament Website, including links to live stats and live audio.