Friday, March 12, 1999

Xavier women jump into foreign territory




BY PETE HOLTERMANN
Enquirer contributor

        It would be easy to consider the NCAA Tournament a nerve-wracking experience, especially when a team is young and forging new ground with a tournament appearance. Don't tell that to the Xavier women's basketball team.

XAVIER (8) vs. FIU (9)
<   • When: 8:30 p.m. today
  • Where: Storrs, Conn.
  • Records: XU 23-8, Florida International 23-6
        The Musketeers will appear in just their second NCAA Women's Tournament in school history when they play Florida International tonight in Storrs, Conn.

        “I think right now our goal is the same as it's been all season — to beat the next team we play,” Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I was more stressed about the Atlantic 10 tournament and about getting here. Now I feel like the pressure's off, so let's play.”

        XU hasn't been to the NCAA since 1993, and no one with this year's team was around for that. The Muskies did play in last season's NIT, but that just doesn't compare.

        “Right now, we haven't really prepared them for anything but the game,” Balcomb said. “I kind of think the more we talk about it, and the more we build this up in their minds, the more nervous they'll get.”

        Playing against Florida International could be a track meet. The Muskies average 75 points a game, and the Golden Panthers score 74. Both teams are able to push the ball up the floor because of a pair of talented point guards that will square off in the contest.

        Florida International's Dalma Ivanyi led the nation with 9.1 assists per game this season, but Xavier's Nikki Kremer is close behind with 8.7. Ivanyi, who was named third team All-American earlier this week, averages 14.7 points per game. “She can do a lot of things, she's very offensive minded,” Balcomb said. “They use a lot of ball screens because she likes to shoot off the dribble. She also has tremendous range.”

        Nicole Levandusky, the Muskies' defensive specialist, will have the responsibility of trying to contain Ivanyi.

        FIU's main weapon is 6-foot-1 Zuzana Michalcova of Slovakia, who leads the Golden Panthers in scoring and rebounding, with 16.3 points and 10.7 boards per game.

        No matter what Xavier does defensively, keeping Florida International off the offensive glass will be crucial.

        “They're probably a better rebounding team than anybody in our league (Atlantic 10),” Balcomb said. “Their shooting percentage on the first shot isn't that great but it's better on their second and third attempts.”

Kremer sets XU's pace
MARCH MADNESS PAGE



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