ORU women head to NCAA Tourney
KATY, Texas – In their first year in the Southland Conference, under first-year head coach Misti Cussen, the ORU women’s basketball team won the conference tournament 72-66 over Sam Houston State, Saturday at the Merrell Center here.
“The game was exactly what I expected,” said Cussen. “It was a great final and a great showing of the strength of Southland Conference women’s basketball.”
ORU and Sam Houston finished tied in the conference regular season standings, and ORU was seeded No. 1 in the tournament by virtue of a tiebreaker.
“There was a reason we were co-champions in the regular season with Sam Houston,” Cussen said. “It was a grind and it was tough. I felt like there were two heavyweight fighters in the last five minutes. Both teams were tired, and there were several shifts in momentum. I feel like we just got the final shift in momentum. Toughness is what won out today.”
The Golden Eagles earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Women’s Tournament. It will be the program’s sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The other previous appearances were in 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2008.
The last time the ORU women went to the NCAA Tournament they won the Summit League title, now they represent a new conference.
Senior Kevi Luper was named Southland Tournament MVP. She and fellow seniors, Jaci Bigham and Savanna Buck, will be making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s been a very tough journey and we’ve learned a lot of lessons, and we’ve learned them the hard way, but it made our team who we are today,” said Luper.
Bigham, who was also named to the All-Tournament team, said defense was the key to the ORU victory.
“We had been talking about being the aggressor for the last week or so,” Bigham said. “When we made the effort to pressure the point guard, things started to change. I think we got two or three steals back-to-back and some easy buckets. Definitely when we decided to be the aggressors on defense, it paid off really well.”
No. 15 seed ORU will travel to play No. 2 seed Tennessee at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
ORU MEN POSTSEASON
The ORU men’s team, seeded No. 3 in the Southland Conference Tournament, lost in the quarterfinal to No. 6 Sam Houston, 58-55.
However, the men’s basketball team competed in a postseason tournament for the seventh time in the past nine years, having accepted a bid to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The Golden Eagles (18-14) were scheduled to travel to UT-Arlington (19-13) Wednesday evening.
This is the second CIT appearance in three years for ORU, who lost to SMU in the first round of the tournament in 2011. UTA is making its first appearance in the tournament, but the second consecutive trip to the postseason. Both ORU and UTA competed in the NIT last year.
Starting last season, the CIT was expanded to 32 teams, and the brackets are designed geographically. The 2013 CIT Championship game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
For updates and the men’s and women’s tournaments, follow my Tweets; @JeffBFox23.
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