WESLEYAN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL RECEIVES
BID TO NCAA DIV. III TOURNAMENT
(Cardinals Selected for Second Straight Year, Headed to Virginia for Game vs. Muhlenberg)
Wesleyan University women's basketball team which posted a record of 18-7
while being ousted from the NESCAC tournament in the semi-finals by
eventual champion Bowdoin, received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division
III tournament for the second straight year. Wesleyan will travel to the
University of Mary
Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. for a first-round meeting with
Muhlenberg College Friday, March 3. Game time is 4 p.m. The
other first-round game there Friday at 8 p.m. features host Mary
Washington against the College of New Jersey. The winners meet Saturday at
8 p.m. for a Sweet-16 berth.
Wesleyan went to the Sweet-16 a year ago in its first-ever invitation to the NCAAs. Wesleyan defeated Chestnut Hill, 64-46, at home in the first round before knocking off Staten Island, 73-64, on the road to reach the Sweet-16. In the sectional semi-finals at Southern Maine, Wesleyan fell to Springfield, 62-56.
In 2005-06, Wesleyan got off to an uncharacteristic start with a 2-3 mark after five games. Each of the previous three seasons, Wesleyan stood 5-0 to begin the campaign. The Cardinals shook off the tough start by reeling off 10 straight wins to improve to 12-3 and at the time stood alone at the top of the NESCAC rankings with a 4-0 conference record. Wesleyan closed out the regular season with a 5-3 posting to bring a 17-6 mark, 7-2 in the league, into the NESCAC tournament. Wesleyan, seeded third, upended Trinity, 72-42, in the first round before coming up short in the semi-final vs. Bowdoin, 61-46. That game was played at top-seeded Bates, which along with Williams, also received an at-large bid to the NCAAs while Bowdoin earned the automatic bid as the NESCAC champion.
Wesleyan is led by its senior trio of Hannah Stubbs, Ashley Mastrangelo and Meghan Robinson. These four-year players have
combined to help Wesleyan amass an 81-20 mark over the last four campaigns. Stubbs, who leads the team in scoring (15.1 PPG) and rebounding (7.9 RPG) this season, is second all-time in scoring at Wesleyan with 1,382 points, 34 shy of the team mark. She is a career 58.2 percent shooter from the field and a two-time all-NESCAC first-team selection with the 2005-06 squad due out this week. Mastrangelo, who became Wesleyan's 10th 1,000-point scorer when she eclipsed the plateau during Wesleyan's NESCAC semi-final (she now has 1,001), averages 11.5 PPG and 4.8 RPG. Robinson averages 6.8 PPG and 5.4 RPG while ranking second on the team in assists (2.4 per game). These three have started every game this season as have junior Sarah Milburn and sophomore Nikki Maletta. Off the bench, first-year Ali Fourney has played every game and is second in scoring (11.7 PPG) while leading the team in three-pointers (33), blocks (23) and steals (57).
Muhlenberg stands 25-2 and won the Centennial Conference title for an automatic bid to the NCAAs, its third ever trip and first since 1998. Muhlenberg has been ranked among the top-25 teams nationally much of the season and entered the week rated no. 15 by D3hoops.com and no. 16 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. The only losses by Muhlenberg came on the road in conference play to Johns Hopkins and Franklin & Marshall. Muhlenberg defeated both those teams handily at home and also beat Johns Hopkins for its conference title. Wesleyan and Muhlenberg have one common opponent. Wesleyan lost on a neutral court to Gettysburg, 64-60, while Muhlenberg knocked off Gettysburg, 52-38, at home. Muhlenberg has thrived on winning close games, taking eight decisions in overtime or by five points or less. Its loss to F&M came in overtime.
Muhlenberg has 16 players on its roster, 10 of whom are listed at 5-10 or above. The Mules top scorer is 6-1 junior center
Meghan Courtney, who averages 14.6 PPG along with a team-leading 8.7 RPG. Her 38 blocks also leads the team. Muhlenberg has a steady starting five all averaging 25 minutes or more with five solid subs off the bench giving close to 10 minutes a game.
Wesleyan and Muhlenberg have met only once in the past, that during the Scotty Wood Tournament hosted by Muhlenberg on Nov. 21, 1997, won by the Mules, 78-51. Wesleyan went 6-17 that year.
Host Mary Washington (27-1) was the last undefeated team in the country until Feb. 25 when Marymount (Va.) gave it a taste of defeat for the first time in winning the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. Thus, Mary Washington entered the tournament as an at-large selection. The College of New Jersey (19-8) upset favored Richard Stockton in the New Jersey Athletic Conference finals for an automatic bid. Wesleyan has never played either Mary Washington or TCNJ.
FOLLOW-UP - Getting 40 points from its senior trio of Mastrangelo, Stubbs and Robinson, Wesleyan did not trail in its NCAA Division III first-round game vs. Muhlenberg played at Mary Washington Fri., March 3 until the 3:09 mark of the second half. The Cardinals led 27-22 at halftime and built the advantage to as much as eight in the second half (39-31). But with the score 44-36 and 6:22 to go, Muhlenberg, owner of a 26-2 record and ranked 16th nationally in Division III, began an 11-2 run over the next 3:13 to grab its first lead, 47-46, with 3:09 to go. The run extended to 15-2 for a 51-46 margin with 2:30 to go. Wesleyan cut it to 53-50 and had the ball but a potential tying three-pointer by Ali Fourney, named NESCAC Rookie of the Year for 2005-06, missed the mark with :42 left and the Mules made their final four free throws.