Friday, March 02, 2001

UC women pin NCAA hopes on C-USA tourney


Pirtle says team needs good run to make postseason

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Laurie Pirtle has not minced words with her University of Cincinnati women's basketball team.

        Despite her team's 19-8 record, the Bearcats' 15th-year coach has sent this message: The only way to go to the NCAA Tournament is to win the Conference USA Tournament, and the only way to get to the National Invitation Tournament is to “do some damage” this weekend.

        “Other years, I didn't tell them that, even though I thought it,” she said. “This team can handle it.”

        UC, the fifth seed, plays at 4 p.m. today against 12th-seeded South Florida (4-23, 1-15) in the league tournament at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. The winner plays No.4 seed Alabama-Birmingham (18-9, 10-6) at 4p.m. Saturday.

        Cincinnati will have to win four games in four days to win the tourney. It is 7-4 all time in C-USA Tournament play.

        The Bearcats defeated South Florida 66-52 on Jan.7 and lead the series with the Bulls 6-1. UC lost to UAB 61-58 on Feb.2.

        The tournament favorite is top-seeded Louisville (19-8, 14-2), the regular-season champion. Tulane (19-9, 12-4) is the second seed.

        “I think a lot of people are thinking Cinderella City,” Pirtle said.

        The Bearcats, who finished second behind Louisville in the American Division at 9-7, are trying to earn a fourth consecutive postseason appearance. They have the fifth-best overall record in program history.

        They have won five of their past six games but are coming off a 70-57 loss to the Cardinals.

        “All the teams in the tournament think they can win,” UC junior forward Laura Wilder said. “To me, anything less than a conference tournament championship would be disappointing. We set our goals in the fall: Win the conference, win the conference tournament, go to the NCAA. We haven't done anything yet. The past 19 wins haven't gotten us anything.”

       



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