April 27, 2011 – Schools that hosted games in the 2011 Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament saw record numbers of fans at their games.
Nearly 100,000 fans bought tickets to watch women’s college basketball teams play in the 64-team tournament. The 99,249 fans represented almost a 20 percent increase from last year’s all-time attendance high of 83,557 fans.
The largest increases from the year before came in the final three rounds, with the numbers bolstered by two straight sellouts at Toledo. The Rockets captured their first postseason title with a win over Southern Cal in front of a school and Mid-American Conference record 7,301 fans. Toledo drew an average of 4,283 fans in their six WNIT games, which was a 67 percent increase from its regular-season average.
Other tidbits of note about this year’s Postseason WNIT:
- Host teams won an average of 64 percent of home games. The best round for the visiting teams was Round 2, in which visitors claimed wins in 9 of the 16 games. The unusual numbers reflect an ongoing trend showing the parity of play in the WNIT. In the 2010 WNIT, home teams won 70 percent of the games. In 2009, it was 75 percent. In 2008, home teams won 81 percent of the games. In 2007, it was 87 percent.
- Two schools sold out their arenas in 2011 for the first time in school history: Toledo did it with its 7,300-seat arena in the semifinal and final games; and Florida Gulf Coast hit the milestone in its Round 2 game against the University of Florida, when it packed a record 4,543 fans at Alico Arena.
- Nevada drew its largest crowd in school history when it hosted Southern Cal in Round 2 in front of 3,361 fans.
- Illinois State advanced to the WNIT semifinals for the third straight year.
- Wyoming’s fans continued to turn out in record numbers. The Cowgirls averaged 5,178 fans in the first three rounds, a 49 percent increase from their regular-season average.
- Southern Cal won more road games (four) than any other team in WNIT history.
- Every one of the nation’s 31 established conferences was represented in the field. It was the second straight year with a 64-team bracket.
Of the 64 teams, 15 earned a spot and played in the Postseason WNIT for the first time:
- Appalachian State
- Cal Poly
- Central Michigan
- Loyola Md.
- Morgan State
- UNC Wilmington
- Utah State
Of those 15 teams, four were playing in a postseason tournament for the first time in the history of their program:
- Cal Poly
- Morgan State
- UNC Wilmington
Five teams captured the first postseason win ever in the history of their program:
- Eastern Michigan (defeated Michigan and UNC Wilmington)
- Loyola Md. (defeated Old Dominion)
- Nevada (defeated St. Mary’s CA)
- UNC Wilmington (defeated Richmond)
- Utah State (defeated Arizona)
Twelve teams won their regular-season conference titles. They earned automatic berths in the WNIT by being the top team in their conference that didn’t advance to the NCAA Tournament.
- Appalachian State (Southern)
- BYU (Mountain West)
- Cal Poly (Big West)
- Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun)
- Lehigh (Patriot)
- Liberty (Big South)
- Oral Roberts (Summit)
- Portland State (Big Sky)
- Southern (SWAC)
- Tennessee Tech (Ohio Valley)
- Toledo (MAC)
- UMBC (America East)
April 2, 2011 – Toledo capped an impressive postseason run with its sixth straight victory Saturday. The Rockets won their first women’s basketball title in history by way of a 76-68 win over Southern Cal in the championship game of the Women’s NIT.
With the community and university students embracing the team over the past few weeks, the Toledo players enjoyed their second straight sellout, with a school- and conference-record 7,301 fans on hand. The game sold out in a matter of hours, and the team became the darling of the city over the past few weeks.
The players took care of business on the court Saturday, making their move midway through the second half on the back of junior Naama Shafir, the tournament MVP. With her team clinging to a 49-47 lead and less than a second left on the shot clock, Shafir swished a 3-pointer in traffic during what would amount to a 10-0 Toledo run. USC didn’t give up, though, battling back to 70-66 before Toledo hit its free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
Shafir led both teams with 40 points and was named MVP. Joining her on the all-tournament team was Toledo’s Yolanda Richardson; USC’s Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath; Charlotte’s Shannon McCallum; and Emily Hanley of Illinois State. To be eligible for the all-tournament team, the players had to be on a team that advanced to the Final Four of the WNIT.
USC accomplished something no other team has in WNIT history: The Trojans won four games on the road. They defeated UC Santa Barbara at USC, then beat Nevada, BYU, Colorado, and Illinois State to set up the championship game at Toledo.
Toledo played all six games at home, and saw its attendance grow from 2200 in the first round to a bursting-at-the-seams sellout on Saturday. Along the way, the Rockets collected wins over Delaware, Auburn, Alabama, Syracuse, and Charlotte.