Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

SW Missouri, Tigers Set to Open Play in Women's Event

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

SW Missouri, Tigers Set to Open Play in Women's Event

Article excerpt

Southwest Missouri State plays the favorite's role, Missouri the underdog in the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament tonight.

MU (12-17) will try to upset defending national champion Texas Tech (26-4) at 7 p.m. in Lubbock. MU is the No. 15 seed, Texas Tech No. 2 in the Midwest Region.

The role is reversed for favorite Southwest Missouri State, which made it to the Final Four in 1992.

The Lady Bears (23-5), seeded No. 6 in the Mideast Region, play No. 11 seed Northern Illinois (24-5) at 7 p.m. at Hammons Student Center in Springfield. The last of the nearly 9,000 tickets for the game were sold Tuesday.

MU coach Joann Rutherford acknowledged that her team is the dark horse. But she pointed to how her team swept its way to the Big Eight Tournament championship earlier this month.

MU slogged through a 3-11 regular season conference schedule. Yet in the conference tourney, the Tigers beat No. 12 Kansas, Oklahoma State and No. 2 Colorado in succession to secure the Big Eight's automatic NCAA Tournament berth.

It was a confidence build-up for Missouri, said senior point guard Amy Fordham.

"If we beat the No. 2 team in the nation, we know we can play with anybody," Fordham said. "Our team has so much potential. And I think we still have a lot of room left to grow."

Rutherford added: "At this time of year, anything can happen."

That's precisely what has Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp on her guard.

Sharp says her team is playing well - the Red Raiders have a 19-game home winning streak and are ranked No. 6 nationally. This, despite losing last year's college player of the year, Sheryl Swoopes, one of three seniors who graduated. Guard Noel Johnson remains the only starter from a year ago.

Texas Tech must attack the Tigers' defense and take charge of the rebounding, Sharp said.

"It's critical you keep them off the boards," she said, referring to MU center Nikki Smith (10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds) and forward Erika Martin (17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds). …

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