Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lady Bears Kick off Division III March Madness vs. Aurora

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lady Bears Kick off Division III March Madness vs. Aurora

Article excerpt

With apologies to Billiken and Tiger fans, March Madness actually starts with the Washington University basketball team.

The Lady Bears, who earned a first-round bye in the NCAA Division III tournament, play Aurora (Ill.) University in a second-round game tonight. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at the WU Field House.

Washington U. (22-3) is among the favorites in the 40-team field. The Bears have won 12 in a row and are ranked sixth in one national poll.

Still, the Lady Bears have a bittersweet history in the national tournament. They made the Final Four in 1991 but were upset in the first round the last two seasons despite being top-seeded in their region.

Washington U. won 69-65 at Aurora (22-4) on Jan. 6.

"Homework and preparation tend to be among our strengths," coach Nancy Fahey said, "and I feel better about where we are than in recent years. A couple of times in the past, we had limited resources available to us" as far as scouting tournament opponents.

"This year," Fahey said, "we've got firsthand knowledge."

Noticing Nikki: Just as Missouri Valley Conference teams are looking forward to the graduation of Southwest Missouri guard tandem Melody Howard and Tina Robbins, along comes SIU-Carbondale's Nikki Gilmore to emerge as one of the Midwest's premier guards.

Gilmore (DuBourg High) was a no-brainer pick for MVC Player of the Week. In successive tough games against Wichita State (four-point victory) and league champion Southwest Missouri State (four-point defeat), the 5-foot-4 Gilmore played every minute and averaged 23 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists. She helped the Salukis clinch a home game in the first round of the Valley tournament next week by scoring 25 points in Thursday's victory over Bradley.

Southwest Missouri (19-5) has won 15 of its last 16 and will be difficult to overtake in the Valley tournament. The Lady Bears play a first-round home game against the No. 8 seed Tuesday night, and if they win, will play host to the semifinals and final next Friday and Saturday. …

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