Although the NCAA tournament success of Marquette’s men’s team is well-known, the women haven’t achieved as much glory in March. This year’s Golden Eagles think they might be able to change that.
With the highest seeding in its history, Marquette begins tournament play Saturday with a first-round matchup against Louisiana-Lafayette in Austin, Texas.
While the Marquette men have reached three Final Fours in their history— including winning the 1977 national championship—the women have only advanced past the first round twice in seven previous tournament appearances. The Golden Eagles (25-6) defeated Clemson in 1997, and Old Dominion in 2004, but were eliminated in the second round each time.
This year, Marquette could be primed for a longer run. Led by sophomore point guard Krystal Ellis and her 18.2 points per game, the Golden Eagles lost consecutive games just once all season and earned the No. 6 seed in the Dayton Regional.
“It’s been a history making year for this team and the higher seed you have the better your chances of succeeding and winning are,” said Marquette’s Terri Mitchell, the Big East coach of the year. “I think we are in great shape. We are happy with where we are.”
Although the Golden Eagles have not played in the NCAA tournament since 2004, their four highest scorers after Ellis are all seniors who were on that team. Christina Quaye, Danielle Kamm, Jasmine McCullough and Efueko Osagie-Landry all play integral roles, each averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
“We are really excited to be back where we were in the NCAA tournament our freshman year as seniors,” said Quaye, a 6-foot-2 forward who averages 16.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds. “We are a hungry and determined bunch that I just think is ready to get out there and play.”
The 11th-seeded Ragin’ Cajuns (25-8) fell short in the Sun Belt conference tournament title game March 6, when they lost 77-67 to Middle Tennessee, but still earned an at-large bid to reach their first NCAA tournament.
Although the defeat snapped a six-game winning streak, Louisiana-Lafayette may have impressed the selection committee by remaining close to a Middle Tennessee club which ended up a No. 5 seed in this tournament and is riding a 26-game winning streak.
“They didn’t blow us out. We played with them,” said senior forward Yolanda Jones, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Jones averages team highs of 17.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are returning to the site where they opened the season. They went 2-1 at the Basketball Travelers Classic in Austin last November, defeating Texas State and Maryland-Eastern Shore, and losing to Texas.
The winner of this game faces either Oklahoma or Southeast Missouri State in the second round Monday.
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