Monday, March 12, 2001

Xavier women don't have easy path




By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Xavier women's basketball team matches up well with its first-round NCAA Tournament opponent, Louisville, but figure to have to earn a trip to the regionals in Birmingham, Ala.

        The 28-2 Musketeers, who play host Friday to the Cardinals at Cintas Center, would play a second NCAA game at home most likely against Clemson. Clemson, the fifth seed, plays No. 12 seed Chattanooga in the other game at XU.

        Clemson finished 20-9, 10-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tigers scored an average of 71.6 points a game and had four players average 10 or more points. The leading scorer is Chrissy Floyd, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard. Erin Batth, a 6-4 inside player, averages 12.3 points a game.

        Clemson's most impressive victory was 93-75 over Duke, the No. 1 seed in the West Regional.

        Chattanooga won the Southern Conference tournament and finished 24-6. Seven Lady Mocs average five or more points a game, led by 5-foot-10 senior guard Damita Bullock at 14.2 points.

        Louisville, 19-9, was 6-9 in games played away from home. It was 13-0 at home.

        The Xavier-Louisville game will have a northern European feel to it.

        Two of Xavier's starters, Taru Tuukkanen and Reetta Piipari, are from Finland. And Louisville's leading scorer, Marju Sober, is from the former Soviet province of Estonia.

        The other three teams who play this weekend at Xavier may as well be from Estonia. Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb doesn't know much about them.

        “No, not much at all,” Balcomb said when asked if she knew anything about Louisville, a Conference-USA rival of the University of Cincinnati. “Cincinnati is 10 minutes away, but you can't go over and watch any of those games, and they can't help us at all. We'll have to get on the phone tonight, get tapes and start to work.

        As for the other two teams coming to town: “We have Chattanooga and Clemson. I know more about Chattanooga because we played them in a tournament last year down at Florida State. We beat them in a close game (80-65). I know they're a very tough team.

        “I played against Clemson in the past, when I was at Providence, and I know (coach) Jim Davis is a very good coach and that team will always be ready. I think there will be very good women's basketball this weekend.”

        Xavier has won 18 games in a row, including three at the Atlantic 10 Tournament last week in Philadelphia. The Musketeers defeated George Washington 81-56 in the championship game.

        But Balcomb reminded her team Sunday that they need to play better in the NCAA Tournament.

        “We were really on all cylinders against GW shooting-wise,” she said. “But we weren't executing well. I wanted to show the team we can really do better. We just happened to be on fire, but we can't count on that every night. We just want to keep getting better.”

        XU is looking forward to playing to the first round games. A three-game package of tickets is $15 for adults and $10 for students and go on sale Tuesday at the Xavier ticket office at Cintas Center or by phone at 745-3411 or 562-4949.

        “You never know when this could happen again,” Balcomb said. “It's really exciting for our program.”

Cincinnati.com tournament coverage



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