Thursday, March 09, 2000

NKU women have high hopes

Open tournament play on Friday

Enquirer contributor

        Nancy Winstel is throwing another party. The secret to its success will be in knowing the guest list.

        The Northern Kentucky University women's basketball coach and her team will again play host to the Great Lakes Regional portion of the NCAA Division II Tournament, beginning today at Regents Hall. Winstel figures preparation is the biggest key for matching last year's run to the Final Four.

  • Ferris State (22-6) vs. Missouri-St. Louis (18-10), 5:30 p.m.
  • Michigan Tech (22-6) vs. Gannon (21-9), 7:45 p.m.
  • Northern Michigan (24-5) vs. Ferris St./UMSL winner, 5:30 p.m.
  • NKU (27-2) vs. Michigan Tech/Gannon winner, 7:45 p.m.
  • Championship, 7:45 p.m.
        “We want to give the players what (information) they need, but we don't want to give them too much,” she said. “You've got to have the right mix of preparation. You don't want them to be thinking about things they don't need to think about.”

        Going into the regional last year, NKU was 27-2 with a 19-game winning streak. This year's record and winning streak are identical, but expectations have soared: The Norse were ranked No.9 nationally last year; now they're No.2.

        NKU gets a bye today, and will begin tournament play at 7:45 p.m. Friday against the winner of tonight's game between Michigan Tech and Gannon (Pa.).

        The winner of Saturday's title game advances to the Elite Eight, March 22-25, in Pine Bluff, Ark.

        Four of the region's teams are ranked among the nation's top 25: NKU, No.14 Michigan Tech (22-6), No.16 Northern Michigan (24-5) and No.22 Ferris State (22-6).

        Of concern to the Norse might be NMU senior Sasha Leverentz, whose 22.8 scoring average ranks fourth in the nation. NMU also leads the coun try with a .776 free-throw percentage, ranking fourth in field-goal percentage (.480) and eighth in scoring (81.4 avg.).

        Another key statistic: Missouri-St. Louis is sixth in the nation in 3-point shooting (.403).

        NKU can counter with junior guard Heather Livingstone, who ranks second in the nation with a .529 percentage on 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Michelle Cottrell (Boone County), a GLVC co-player of the year, led the league with an average of 9.1 rebounds a game and leads NKU in scoring with an average of 17.0 points a game.

        She is followed by junior guard Michele Tuchfarber (Mount Notre Dame), a second-team all-conference pick, at 13.1 points a game and Livingstone at 12.0. Livingstone earned honorable mention all-league.

        The Norse rank second nationally in both field-goal shooting (.486) and 3-point shooting (.444). They have won nine consecutive home games and 23 of their last 24.

        “Everybody in the tournament deserves to be there,” said Winstel, the GLVC Coach of the Year. “Nobody will be intimidated. Hopefully, we'll come ready to play.”

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