March 6, 2008
Bearcats, Lions Compete in a Rematch of 2007
KANSAS CITY, Mo.-Northwest Missouri State, the No. 5 seed, takes on fourth-seeded Missouri Southern State in the first round of the MIAA Tournament at 2:15 p.m. Thursday at Municipal Auditorium. The game is a rematch of last year's No. 4/No. 5 tournament game won by the Northwest Bearcats.
The star-studded cast in Kansas City includes all 11 all-conference players, all five all-defensive selections and four of the top six teams in the South Central Region. The top eight teams in the final regional rankings will advance to the NCAA tournament, but the winner of Sunday's championship game will automatically be included among the eight.
Missouri Southern (18-9) is ranked sixth in the region and would likely secure an NCAA bid with an opening-round win. Northwest (14-13) needs to win three straight to play beyond the weekend. The Bearcats have beaten every team in the tournament this season except Emporia State, which they could only face in the championship game.
Northwest's lineup is the most experienced among the eight teams and that could give the Bearcats the edge they need to get to Sunday. Northwest's starting five includes four seniors and a junior who have combined to play in 528 career games. Mandi Schumacher and guard Kelli Nelson will be playing in their 116th career games Thursday.
The Bearcats and Lions played twice this season with each team winning on the other's home court. Missouri Southern spotted the Bearcats a 15-0 lead before earning a 65-64 win Jan. 16 in Maryville. Schumacher and Meghan Brue each posted double-doubles in a 73-62 Northwest win Feb. 23 in Joplin.
The Bearcats, as they have all season, live and die with the 3-pointer. In the nine conference games Northwest won, the team averaged 9.5 three's. The average was less than six in its nine conference losses.
Nelson is four 3-pointers shy of tying the program's single-season record and Lauren Williams has joined her as a long-distance threat as of late. Williams had seven 3's in the final week of the regular season and scored 16 points or more in three of the last four games.
Against the Lions, though, it's been Schumacher in the paint that's given the Bearcats the most success. A second-team All-MIAA selection, Schumacher averaged 19.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games against Missouri Southern. She had an 18-point, 12-rebound performance in Joplin while Brue added 15 points and 10 boards. The Bearcats outrebounded the Lions 38-26.
The Lions counter on the interior with leading scorers Tynesha Pierce and Fatai Hala'Api'Api, both of whom were in foul trouble for much of the game in Joplin. India Wood is a capable point guard who gives the Lions three players averaging in double digits. Wood hit five 3-pointers in two games against the Bearcats.
The winner of Thursday's game advances to Saturday's semifinal where the winner of top-seeded Washburn and eighth-seeded Missouri Western await. That game tips off at noon.
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