Evansville to Face No. 2 Texas A&M in NCAA Tournament
Number two seed Texas A&M will be the University of Evansville's opponent Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Game time is 11:00 a.m. CDT at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana.
The 15th seeded Aces have already played once this season at the Joyce Center, back on Nov. 19 against Notre Dame. Sunday's game will be Evansville's first ever against Texas A&M. The 25-7 Aggies were 11-5 in the Big 12 Conference, and runner-up to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament. They are ranked ninth nationally this week in the ESPN/USA Today poll, and 10th in the AP poll. Texas A&M's balanced offense includes three double-figure scorers in 5-8 senior guard Takia Starks (15.6), 5-11 guard/forward Danielle Gant (13.8) and 6-0 junior guard/forward Tanisha Smith (10.0).
This is Evansville's second straight year in post-season play, and second NCAA Tournament appearance. The 2008 Purple Aces defeated Southeast Missouri in the first round of the WNIT before losing in the second round at Kansas. The only previous NCAA Tournament appearance came 10 years ago, when the Aces fell to LSU on the Tigers' homecourt, 78-69 in the opening round of the 1999 tournament.
The Purple Aces' improbable run to the 2009 NCAA Tournament began when they entered last week's State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with an 11-18 overall record and a 4-14 record in conference play. Despite winning just four games between Jan. 1 and March 10, first-year coach Misty Murphy rallied her troops and led them to four victories in four days. Evansville defeated #8 Southern Illinois, #1 Illinois State, #4 Bradley and #2 Creighton to become the lowest seed in MVC history to win the tournament championship.
"We're really excited about the opportunity," said Murphy. "Texas A&M is an outstanding ballclub, but we are still excited to be dancing."
Evansville went into the MVC tournament with an RPI of 189, and saw its ranking improve to 156 after winning four straight last week. Senior Ashley Austin was named Missouri Valley Conference Tournament MVP after setting a school record for points in a tournament with 62 points in four games (15.5 points per game), including scoring a team-best 17 points in the championship game. Shannon Novosel joined her on the all-tournament team after blocking a tournament-record 11 shots, while averaging 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.