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Muhlenberg College

Thursday, March 4, 2010

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NCAA Tournament Preview
women’s basketball slams into ncaas

One of the pregame rituals for the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team comes in the last minute of warmups, right before the Mules return to their bench for introductions and the anthem. The team huddles up in the lane, and senior Maiza Mock slams a ball to the floor.

“Honestly, I’m not sure how that came about,” said Mock. “One game I just did it randomly, and it really pumped us up.”

Tomorrow, the Mules bring their slammin’ act to Kean University NCAA basketball in Union, N.J., for the NCAA Division III Tournament. Muhlenberg (21-5) plays Tufts (20-5) on Friday at 6:00, followed by a game between second-ranked Kean (26-1) and Penn State Berks (19-9). The winners meet Saturday at 6:00 with a berth in the “Sweet 16” on the line.

And while Mock’s ball usually bounces to near halfcourt (where sophomore Kimberly Mui catches it), the Mules will be looking to
Mule women's basketball
Union, New Jersey, is a lot closer than the Mules’ destination for the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament last year – Brunswick, Maine. Muhlenberg was scheduled to play in the area, at Montclair State, in early February, but that game was cancelled due to snow.
bounce back from a loss in last weekend’s Centennial Conference championship game. Top-seeded Muhlenberg, looking for its third straight title, was outscored down the stretch and lost to McDaniel.

“It was a disappointment, but this season has taught us to take each game separately and not take one game into the next,” said Mock.

That attitude has worked well. The Mules have not lost back-to-back games this year and have done so only once in the last three years. That consistency has helped them be successful in the
Kelly McKeon
Junior Kelly McKeon, the CC player of the year and recent addition to the 1,000-point club, is sixth in Division III in assist-to-turnover ratio.
postseason, with seven wins in their last 10 postseason games.

The Tufts game will be the 12th postseason game – almost the equivalent of a half-season – for Mock and the three other seniors.

“That experience will help,” she said. “It’s easier to maintain focus and not get caught up in the moment of being in the NCAAs. We’ve been there before and know what to do.”

Muhlenberg also has the experience of a tough schedule. The Mules played eight of their 26 games against NCAA Tournament teams (three vs. McDaniel, two vs. Gettysburg and one each vs. DeSales, Moravian and Scranton), going 4-4 in those games.

Tufts, like Muhlenberg, comes from a conference that sent multiple teams to the NCAAs, as five New England Small College Athletic Conference teams made the field. The Jumbos were 3-3 against NCAA invitees and have been idle since falling to Bowdoin in the NESCAC quarterfinals on February 20.

Tufts boasts the top two scorers in the NESCAC in junior guard Colleen Hart (16.6 points per game) and senior forward Julia Baily (15.6). Junior guard Vanessa Miller was named NESCAC defensive player of the year. The Jumbos are eighth in Division III in three-point shooting percentage (.375) and ninth in fewest turnovers per game (14.4). They also have been called for the fifth-fewest fouls.

The lineup Tufts fields is considerably smaller than that of the Mules, with three starters 5-5 or shorter, but the impact of that will not be known until the two teams actually get on the same court together.

And that is another aspect to this matchup – an unknown opponent for Muhlenberg. With the CC schedule expanded to 20 games this year and traditional contests against local rivals Moravian and DeSales filling out the schedule, it’s been since the Scotty Wood Tournament championship game way back on November 21 that the Mules have faced an opponent they haven’t been very familiar with.

“I think it’s going to give us more excitement and energy,” said Mock. “Since we’re not going to know what to expect, we’re not going to have any expectation on how we should play. We just know we have to play as hard as we can.”

All NCAA Tournament games from Kean will feature live stats and live streaming video. For details, visit www.keanathletics.com and look in the lower right-hand column.

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