March 12, 2007
SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University's women's basketball team will make its inaugural appearance in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament as the No. 12 seed against fifth-seeded Middle Tennessee State University of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Saturday at Stanford University.
The selections were announced Monday night. Game times and ticket information will be announced as it becomes available.
Saturday's Gonzaga-Middle Tennessee winner will face the winner of the game between No. 4 seed Ohio State University (28-3) and No. 13 seed Marist College (27-5) of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Monday for the right to advance to the Dayton, Ohio, Regional.
The Bulldogs (24-9, 13-1 in the West Coast Conference) were guaranteed their first trip to the NCAA Tournament by virtue of claiming the WCC Tournament crown last weekend in Portland, Ore. The Blue Raiders (29-3, 18-0 in the Sun Belt Conference) earned the automatic berth by winning their fourth straight Tournament title.
"It felt great to see our name pop up on television," Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves said. "We've been close the last couple of years and this group has worked extremely hard to achieve this goal. I'm proud of them."
But Graves said this isn't a one-and-out thing, either this year or in the future.
"We're going to Stanford to win," Graves said. "We have a difficult team in our way in Middle Tennessee State. We know they'll be athletic and they'll want to run the floor.
"We're hopeful we can repeat this night several times in the years to come," Graves told the gathering of family and friends who gathered for the selection show. "This isn't going to be a one-time thing."
Middle Tennessee is ranked fourth in the nation in scoring at 79.6 ppg, and 81st in defense allowing 60.6 ppg. The Blue Raiders have a scoring margin of +19.1 which ranks sixth nationally.
The Blue Raiders, ranked 17th in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN/WBCA polls, are paced by Chrissy Givens, a 5-11 senior guard from Monroe, La., who ranks fourth in the country in scoring at 22.8 ppg. One of two players to start all 32 games, Givens is shooting 51.5 percent from the floor on 285-for-553 and is 133-for-178 form the free throw line for 74.7 percent. She is one of three players who average a team-leading 6.3 rpg.
Givens added to a long list of accolades during her career at Middle Tennessee, earning All-Sun Belt first team honors as well as Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
Amber Holt, a 6-0 junior forward from Duluth, Ga., averages 16.8 ppg to rank 78th in the country. She's shooting 46.3 percent from the field on 194-of-419 and leads the regulars in free throw shooting at 77.1 percent on 135-of-175. She also grabs 6.3 rpg and started all 32 games.
Middle Tennessee is coached by second-year head coach Rick Insell who led the Blue Raiders to the Sun Belt title and NCAA Tournament in his first season a year ago. An alumnus of Middle Tennessee, he came to the Blue Raiders after a 28-year career at nearby Shelbyville High where he coached the Golden Eaglettes to a record 10 State Class AAA titles.
Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves will be making his sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament, four as an assistant coach at the University of Portland and one as head coach at Saint Mary's College his previous appearances.
Saturday's winner will face the winner of the game between No. 4 seed Ohio State University (28-3) and No. 13 seed Marist College (27-5) of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.