BAYLOR 86, DEPAUL 72
WACO, TX – With its trademark defense leading the way, No. 4 Baylor kept No. 19 DePaul at arm’s length throughout Sunday’s contest, shooting an impressive 63 percent from the field as well to post an 86-72 victory against the Blue Demons and win the 2015 Preseason WNIT championship.
The Lady Bears (4-0), who also won the title in 2011, jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held up despite some trouble with turnovers that allowed DePaul (3-1) to cut the lead to 24-22 after the first quarter. Baylor used a balanced scoring attack to rebuild the advantage, and DePaul never really found its shooting touch, going 5-for-28 (18 percent) from the 3-point line.
Alexis Jones scored 21 points for the Lady Bears; Khadijiah Cave came off the bench and racked up 16 points, with Nina Davis scoring 20 points to go with 10 rebounds. Baylor had a 37-27 edge in rebounds.
DePaul was paced by Megan Podkowa, who closed with 19 points and seven rebounds. Brooke Schulte and Chanise Jenkins each had 13 points for the Blue Demons, who did force Baylor in 21 turnovers.
Davis was named the Most Valuable Player on the all-Preseason WNIT team. Joining her on the squad was Amanda Cahill of Indiana, Courtney Williams of South Florida, Chanise Jenkins and Megan Podkowa of DePaul, and Baylor's Niya Johnson.
UT ARLINGTON 56, JACKSONVILLE 54
ARLINGTON, TX - Toma Zaleckaite hits a layup at the buzzer as UT Arlington slips past Jacksonville 56-54 in the WNIT consolation round.
Jacksonville’s Sherranda Reddick scored a game-high 26 points, but it wasn’t enough for the Dolphins who led at halftime 25-19 and by as much as 11 points with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
The Mavs fought back and took a 54-49 lead with 51 seconds remaining in the fourth before Jacksonville’s Kayla Gordon hit a three-pointer to bring the score within two. Two free throws by Reddick tied the game with one second remaining. Due to the new rule this year, which allows teams to advance the ball to the front court with a timeout, the Mavs threw a lob pass to Zaleckaite who hit a layup as the buzzer sounded. A quick check of the replay confirmed the bucket was good.
Morgan Holly finished with a team-high 10 points for UT Arlington.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 73, SIENA 54
CARBONDALE, IL – Four Southern Illinois players score in double figures and the Salukis use a 30-point third quarter to defeat Siena 73-54 in the WNIT consolation round.
Azia Washington scored 12 points to lead SIU which shot 46.2% from the field. Teammate Cartaesha Macklin chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. Kylie Giebelhausen and Rishonda Napier each added 10 points.
Kollyns Scarbrough finished with a game-high 18 points for Siena and Jackie Benitez netted 10 points. Siena only hit 2 of 11 three-point attempts and finished the game 27.4% from the field.
CHATTANOOGA 53, SOUTHERN MISS 48 OT
CHATTANOOGA, TN — No. 24 Chattanooga fought back from a seven-point deficit entering the fourth quarter Friday to force overtime against Southern Miss, earning the Mocs a victory in a consolation round game of the 2015 Preseason WNIT.
Jasmine Joyner paced the Mocs with 20 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Kelana Gilbert added 12 points. Joyner hit a free throw with about two minutes left in the game to make it 44-43 for Chattanooga, and Jerontay Clemons tied it for Southern Miss with a free throw with 46 seconds remaining. Moses Johnson scored five points in overtime for the Mocs.
Southern Miss got 15 points from Clemons; Caitlin Jenkins added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
MCNEESE STATE 78, DARTMOUTH 56
ARLINGTON, TX — Jayln Johnson scored 19 points and teammate Allison Baggett added 13 points for McNeese State on Friday, which rolled past Dartmouth in a consolation round of the Preseason WNIT.
McNeese State will face Jacksonville or UT Arlington on Saturday in the final round of consolation play.
Dartmouth was led by Daisy Jordan, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. The team shot just 27 percent from the field and had 16 turnovers.
TENNESSEE STATE 74, ALABAMA STATE 64
CARBONDALE, IL — I’mani Davis scored 20 points, Jayda Johnson scored 19 points and two others hit double figures for Tennessee State, which scored 32 points in the fourth quarter and posted the win Friday in a consolation round of the Preseason WNIT.
The Lady Tigers will play Siena or Southern Illinois on Saturday in the final round of consolation play.
Alabama State was led by Britney Wright, who scored 17 points and added seven rebounds. Daniele Ewert scored 12 points.
At a distance, the look of the 2015 Preseason WNIT bracket has clarity, with the highest ranked teams on either side of the draw — No. 4 Baylor and No. 19 DePaul — emerging to face each other in Sunday’s championship game (3 p.m. ET at Baylor, televised by CBS Sports Network).
But there’s nothing automatic in the heat of competition, and both teams had to scale a hurdle or two to get through Thursday’s semifinals. The reward for managing the adversity is a chance to play another tough early-season game and learn more about their own internal makeup.
For the Lady Bears (3-0), it’s all about shifting roles and responsibilities around after the loss of guard Alexis Prince to a knee injury suffered Wednesday in practice. Prince scored 16 points in the team’s victory versus Southern Miss, indicating her ability to take some scoring pressure off Nina Davis, who leads the team in scoring.
Baylor definitely got tested Thursday in a 66-63 win against No. 17 South Florida, who trailed by just a point in a couple spots in the fourth quarter and showed a lot of tenacity despite shooting poorly.
“I thought we were tremendous on the defensive end, not just the first half. I thought we did okay the whole game,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey after the contest. “You just beat a team that has five returning starters and nine returning players. That was a very, very hard-fought win for us. I knew it was going to be. When (Alexis) Prince went out this week and had to have surgery, you have to adjust on the fly. We’re very talented, but we’re not anywhere near where we’re going to be. I have to figure out who to play and help on the perimeter.”
Baylor won the 2011 Preseason WNIT and is in the title game for the third time in four chances. The Lady Bears have now won 155 consecutive home games against non-conference foes, dating back to a loss to Auburn in the 2003 Postseason WNIT title game.
For the Blue Demons, their challenge Thursday was withstanding the scorching offense of visiting Indiana. The Hoosiers were at better than 65 percent from the field in the first half, but it was not a good sign to be actually trailing on the scoreboard (42-39).
The numbers began to balance in the second half, and DePaul’s seasoned lineup got its own rhythm solved on the way to a drama-free 84-69 victory.
"Indiana does a great job of not letting you get to the paint," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. "We ended up taking 34 three-pointers (making 11), because that's what Indiana was giving us.
"Indiana forced us to take more time on offense. Brooke (Schulte) was good at picking her spots and patiently taking shots where there were openings. Eventually, our ball reversal and patience got us good looks at the rim.”
DePaul’s ability to cope with Baylor’s defense will be a key, as the Lady Bears force turnovers by the bunches. The Blue Demons should have confidence when they run their offense, with six players averaging in double figures in scoring.
Fans can watch the WNIT championship game live on CBS Sports Network. Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Curt Miller will be calling the action from Waco, TX. CLICK HERE to find the channel in your area.
BAYLOR 66, SOUTH FLORIDA 63
WACO, TX – Fourth-ranked Baylor built a lead Thursday against South Florida and held on after No. 17 South Florida rallied late, giving the Lady Bears the victory and a spot in Sunday’s Preseason WNIT championship game against 19th-ranked DePaul. That game will be played at Baylor and tip off at 3 p.m. ET, to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
Baylor (3-0), which won the Preseason WNIT in 2011, took a nine-point lead after the first quarter, but the Bulls always stayed in range despite a cold night shooting from the floor. Courtney Williams hit a jumper to cut Baylor’s lead to 59-58 with 2:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Baylor scored the next five points to regain control. Niya Johnson made a free throw to put the Lady bears up by three points, 66-63, and Williams missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the contest.
The Lady Bears were paced by Nina Davis, who had 15 points and six rebounds. Kalani Brown scored 11 points, and Johnson came through with 10 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists. Baylor survived committing 15 turnovers and shooting a modest 18-of-29 (62 percent) from the free-throw line.
South Florida guard Williams had 23 points but was just 10-of-29 from the field. Laura Ferreira had three 3-pointers and scored 14 points. Alisia Jenkins scored nine points and reeled in 14 rebounds for the Bulls, who shot just 31 percent from the field.
DEPAUL 84, INDIANA 69
CHICAGO – DePaul’s ability to get offense from multiple positions paid off Thursday, with the 19th-ranked Blue Demons easing past Indiana to earn a spot in Sunday’s Preseason WNIT championship game at No. 4 Baylor. That game will tip off at 3 p.m. ET and be televised by CBS Sports Network. Baylor defeated No. 17 South Florida on Thursday, 66-63.
DePaul (3-0) managed to grab a slight lead at halftime, even with Indiana (2-1) shooting 65 percent from the field. When the Hoosiers came back to earth, the Blue Demons were waiting with their uptempo game plan, holding Indiana to just 30 points in the final two quarters.
Megan Podkowa had 16 points for the Blue Demons, and she also contributed four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Ashton Millender drained four 3-pointers on the way to 15 points, and Brooke Schulte added 13 points. DePaul only shot four free throws, but did hit 11 3-pointers.
For Indiana, sophomore Amanda Cahill continued her effective work offensively at the start of the season with 15 points, to go with eight rebounds before fouling out. Tyra Buss added 10 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Karlee McBride scored 10 points. The Hoosiers had 23 turnovers and were an uncharacteristic 7-of-17 from the free-throw line.
The 2015 Preseason WNIT is approaching full boil this week, with three teams in the semifinals ranked nationally in the top 20 and a fourth looking to make its mark with another upset or two by the time the dust settles.
Both semifinals tip off Thursday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. ET, with No. 17 South Florida traveling to No. 4 Baylor and No. 19 DePaul playing host to Indiana. The winners will advance to Sunday’s WNIT title game, set for 3 p.m. ET and to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
Here’s a quick look at the semifinal matchups:
BAYLOR vs. SOUTH FLORIDA: While there’s plenty of season left to go, this game is perfectly positioned to give each team a chance to see where it stands against top-flight competition.
The Lady Bears (2-0) have allowed just 62 points this season and have used their speedy, swarming defense to force dozens of turnovers. Not only is Baylor fast, it mixes in shot-blockers as well, which has created a lot of empty possessions for the opposition.
“I like the way our defense is playing. We’re big, big on the perimeter,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey after Monday’s 97-42 win against Southern Miss. “I think we’re altering shots, I think we’re getting to loose balls, and I don’t have any complaints about our defense right now. We’ll see how good it really is on Thursday.”
Should South Florida keep the game tighter on the scoreboard, the Lady Bears will need to be more productive in a few spots. So far, they are just 6-of-22 from 3-point range (27 percent) and a chilly 60 percent from the free-throw line. Nina Davis and Duke transfer Alexis Jones are always threats to ring up points.
For the Bulls (2-0), seniors Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins have been tough to handle, as both are scoring and rebounding with great effectiveness. Freshman Kitija Laksa has been in the starting lineup both times and is looking comfortable in the role of outside sniper, going 9-of-23 from 3-point range.
"I thought the last 6 minutes of the game we really defended," said coach Jose Fernandez after Sunday’s 73-58 victory against Drexel. "We just went small and switched everything."
Williams is projected to be a top-10 selection in next year’s WNBA draft, and she’s averaging 30 points per game in two contests.
DEPAUL vs. INDIANA: This is the first meeting between these regional programs since 1981. DePaul (2-0) has four players averaging in double figures and has been steady throughout with the experienced touch of Jessica January, Megan Podkowa and Chanise Jenkins. Sophomore Mart’e Grays is emerging as another weapon.
"We want to make it a `DePaul Ball' kind of game that is free flowing and up and down the court," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno after the team’s 77-54 victory Sunday versus St. Bonaventure. "St. Bonaventure forces you to play their grinder style, and I was not overly pleased with the readiness of our team.
"I want to win the battle of the tempos. But if we have to lose the tempo battle to win the game, I don't care. We didn't play one of our sharper games, but sometimes you have to grind out a win."
The Hoosiers (2-0) took down a top 25 program Tuesday, easing past Chattanooga, 54-43, with a defense-first approach. The Mocs labored through 18 turnovers and scored just six points in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore guard Tyra Buss and classmate Amanda Cahill, a forward, are getting a ton of playing time and lead the way offensively.
“‘This is our quarter,’” coach Teri Moren told her team before the fourth quarter Tuesday. “‘If we’re going to win this thing, we needed to push the ball in transition.’ At that point, we were just feeding them with confidence that we have to find ways to get stops and win.”
In the consolation round, 12 teams will wrap up their three-game guarantee. St. Bonaventure will play at Drexel on Saturday, with Chattanooga hosting Southern Miss on Friday.
Two four-team brackets will play out as well – Southern Illinois is the home court for games involving Alabama State, Tennessee State and Siena, while UT Arlington will host Dartmouth, McNeese State and Jacksonville.
Indiana 54, Chattanooga 43
BLOOMINGTON, IN — Indiana used a 12-0 late in the game Tuesday to come back against 24th-ranked Chattanooga and earn a spot in the Preseason WNIT semifinals.
The Hoosiers (2-0) will play at DePaul on Thursday, Nov. 19, with tipoff set for 8 p.m. ET, with the winner facing Baylor or South Florida in the title game on Sunday, Nov. 22. That game is set for a 3 p.m. ET tipoff and will be televised by CBS Sports Network. The Lady Mocs (2-1) will host Southern Miss in the consolation round on Friday, Nov. 20; that game starts at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Indiana trailed 37-33 with about 20 seconds to go in the third quarter, but sophomore guard Tyra Buss scored six straight points in a fourth-quarter run that send the Hoosiers ahead. Chattanooga’s offense went cold in those moments and scored just six points in the final quarter, after ringing up 19 points in the third quarter.
Buss led the way for the Hoosiers with 16 points; she added six rebounds and five assists. Fellow sophomore Amanda Cahill scored 13 points along with her seven rebounds, and Alexis Gassion came through with 10 points.
The Lady Mocs got 13 points and five rebounds from Keiana Gilbert, while Chelsey Shumpert scored 12 points. Jasmine Joyner fought for seven points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Chattanooga was just 3-of-4 from there free-throw line and had 18 turnovers.
Baylor 97, Southern Miss 42
WACO, TX — Fifth-ranked Baylor woke up promptly after Southern Miss took a first-quarter lead Monday, clamping down on the Golden Eagles with a balanced attack to advance to the Preseason WNIT semifinals.
The Lady Bears (2-0), which won by 42 points in their opening-round victory versus UT Arlington, will host South Florida on Thursday, Nov. 19 (tipoff at 8 p.m. ET), with the winner advancing to the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 22. That game will be televised by CBS Sports Network at 3 p.m. ET. Southern Miss (1-1) will play later this week in the consolation round against Indiana or Chattanooga - that game will be played Tuesday at Indiana.
Baylor trailed 15-14 after 10 minutes, but its trademark disruptive defense had the Golden Eagles in scramble mode the rest of the way. The Lady Bears had 10 players break into the scoring column and forced 31 turnovers.
Alexis Prince scored 16 points and added five rebounds for Baylor. Niya Johnson had 15 points and five rebounds; Kristy Wallace added 11 points and six assists. The Lady Bears shot better than 53 percent from the field and blocked 12 shots.
Southern Miss was led by Jerontay Clemons, who scored 18 points after not playing in the team’s first-round victory against Alabama State. Caitlin Jenkins came through with six points and eight rebounds.
DePaul 77, St. Bonaventure 54
CHICAGO — With the starting lineup handling the lion’s share of the duties, DePaul muzzled the attack of St. Bonaventure on Sunday to move on to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT.
The Blue Demons (2-0) will face Indiana or Chattanooga on Thursday, Nov. 19, while the Bonnies (1-1) will play later this week in the consolation round at Drexel. The Indiana-Chattanooga contest is set for Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Indiana.
St. Bonaventure trailed 55-37 after three quarters and scored six quick points to narrow the margin, but a 3-pointer by Megan Podkowa settled the Blue Demons for the duration. DePaul’s bench played sparingly and register just 10 points overall.
The Blue Demons were led in scoring by Jessica January, who closed with 19 points; she also filled the boxscore with totals of six assists, five steals and four rebounds. Podkowa added 14 points and 13 rebounds, with Mart’e Grays and Chanise Jenkins each scoring 13 points. DePaul fought through to a 45-30 rebounding edge and added 13 steals.
South Florida 73, Drexel 58
TAMPA, FL — South Florida held on to a small lead through three quarters, then shut down Drexel’s offense over the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter Sunday to advance to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT.
The 19th-ranked Bulls (2-0) will play Baylor or Southern Miss on Thursday, Nov. 19, while the Dragons (1-1) will play later this week in the consolation round. Baylor and Southern Miss play at Baylor on Monday, Nov. 16.
South Florida led by one point after the first quarter, four points at halftime and seven points after three quarters, with Drexel closing to a four-point deficit (62-58) with 6:59 to go. But the Dragons missed their final 10 shots as South Florida slowly pulled away.
Senior guard Courtney Williams had 26 points, five assists and four rebounds for the Bulls. Alisia Jenkins, the other senior leader for the Bulls, fouled out early in the team’s opening-round win against Jacksonville but responded with 16 points and 21 rebounds. Laura Ferreira added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Drexel was paced by Rachel Pearson and Sarah Curran, who each had 15 points. Alexis Smith added 12 points.
The Dragons hit 10 3-pointers and took care of the ball, committing just eight turnovers. South Florida responded with a rebounding advantage of 47-31 while shooting a solid 46 percent from the field.
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The WNIT announced matchups and hosts on Saturday for the eight consolation teams that lost in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT. UT Arlington and Southern Illinois will host in Consolation Rounds 1 and 2.
UT Arlington will host Dartmouth, Jacksonville, and McNeese State. The first round of games will be played Friday, Nov. 20 with Dartmouth and McNeese State playing at 6 p.m. ET, followed by Jacksonville at UT Arlington at 8:15 p.m. ET. Then on Saturday, Nov. 21, the winners will play each other, and the losers will play each other. UT Arlington will play in the 8:15 p.m. ET game that day (no matter if they’ve won or lost on Friday), and the other game will tip at 6 p.m. ET.
In the other consolation group, Southern Illinois will host Alabama State, Siena, and Tennessee State. Alabama State and Tennessee State will meet each other Friday, Nov. 20 beginning at 5 p.m. ET, followed by Siena at Southern Illinois in the 7:30 p.m. ET game. The next day, the winners will play each other, and the losers will play each other. Southern Illinois will play in the 7:30 p.m. ET game on Nov. 21 (no matter if they’ve won or lost on Friday), with the other game taking place earlier at 5 p.m. ET.
This will be each team's second and third games in the three-game guarantee tournament.
For the latest WNIT news visit the website at www.womensnit.com or follow us on Twitter @WomensNIT.
DePaul 105, Southern Illinois 61
CHICAGO – Playing at their preferred upbeat pace and showing an accurate shooting eye throughout, DePaul was never in trouble against Southern Illinois in the opening round of the Postseason WNIT.
The Blue Demons (1-0) will host St. Bonaventure in Round 2, with tipoff set for Sunday, Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. ET. The Salukis (0-1) will play next week in the consolation round, at a site to be determined.
DePaul had a 14-point lead after one quarter and steadily built the advantage, while the Salukis had trouble controlling the ball and wound up with 23 turnovers.
Leading the way for the Blue Demons in terms of scoring was Megan Podkowa, who closed with 1`7 points and added 11 rebounds. Chanise Jenkins and Mart’e Grays each scored 16 points, and Jessica January came through with 15 points. DePaul shot a robust 56.4 percent from the field.
Southern Illinois got 15 points from Rishonda Napier; Cartaesha added 11 points, four rebounds and seven assists, and Kim Nebo contributed six points and eight rebounds.
Baylor 62, UT Arlington 20
WACO, TX – Consensus top-five Baylor unleashed its suffocating defense and had more than enough offense to finish off UT Arlington in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT.
The Lady Bears (1-0) will play host to Southern Miss in Round 2, set for Monday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. ET; the Lady Mavericks (0-1) will play next week in the consolation round at a site to be determined.
Baylor had a 21-5 lead after one quarter and allowed just a single point to UT Arlington in the second quarter. The Lady Bears averaged about 80 points per game last season but didn’t need anything resembling that production in this contest.
All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year Nina Davis had 19 points and four rebounds for the Bears. Alexis Jones, a transfer from Duke, added 15 points and four assists, while Niya Johnson had seven rebounds and eight assists.
Rebekah VanDijk had five points and four rebounds for the Lady Mavericks, who will look to bounce back from some sobering numbers – 30 turnovers and 20 percent shooting from the field.
Drexel 69, Dartmouth 53
PHILADELPHIA – Drexel took advantage of off-target shooting by Dartmouth and had a commanding lead by halftime to cruise to victory in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.
The Dragons (1-0) will play at South Florida in Round 2 on Sunday, Nov. 15, with tipoff set for 4 p.m. ET; the Big Green (0-1) will play next week in the consolation round, at a site to be determined.
Drexel had a 55-31 lead after three quarters and was able to get most of the roster on the floor by the final buzzer. Dartmouth had a more productive fourth quarter, but even that was just enough to get its shooting percentage into the low 30s overall.
Senior guard Rachel Pearson had 21 points, six rebound and five assists; junior forward Sarah Curran came through with 20 points and six rebounds. The Dragons had more turnovers than Dartmouth, but benefitted from a 41-28 edge in rebounding.
For the Big Green, senior forward Lakin Roland had 15 points and five rebounds. Sophomore guard Kate Letkewicz chipped in with seven points and eight rebounds.
South Florida 74, Jacksonville 52
TAMPA, FL – South Florida flexed its muscle and looked the part of a top-20 team in the opening round of the 2015 Preseason WNIT, jumping to an early lead before moving past Jacksonville.
The Bulls (1-0) will play Drexel or Dartmouth in Round 2 next week, the Dolphins (0-1) will play in the consolation round next week at a site to be determined.
South Florida burst out of the gates to take a 15-0 lead in the first quarter. The lead sat at 16 points by halftime, but Jacksonville made it interesting and cut it to eight points (53-45) on a layup by Jasmyn Brown at the start of the fourth quarter. But the Bulls had the finishing kick they needed and opened up a large lead in the final minutes.
Courtney Williams, a senior guard who was a top-10 scorer in the nation last season, closed with 34 points, just one off her career high. Williams also fought her way to a game-high 18 rebounds. Latvian freshman Kitija Laksa scored 15 points, while center Katelyn Weber blocked six shots.
The Dolphins got 12 points and seven rebounds from Briona Brown, although she was just 3-of-16 from the field. Jacksonville was outrebounded, 51-38, and was held to 27 percent shooting overall.
Chattanooga 68, McNeese State 53
CHATTANOOGA, TN – Fulfilling early expectations as a powerful mid-major squad, Chattanooga was in control from start to finish against McNeese State in the opening round of the 2015 Preseason WNIT.
The Mocs (1-0) will play at Indiana in Round 2, with tipoff set for Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. ET. The Cowgirls will play next week in the event’s consolation round.
Chattanooga’s largest lead was 25 points. McNeese State only shot two free throws and lost the rebounding battle, 43-28, while shooting just 37 percent from the field.
Keiana Gilbert came through with 19 points and six rebounds for the Mocs. Jasmine Joyner, an all-Southern Conference selection last season, added 15 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Junior guard Chelsey Shumpert scored 11 points.
For McNeese State, Jasmyn Carswell and Haily Jenkins each scored six points. Frederica Haywood added four points and a team-high six rebounds.
St. Bonaventure 57, Siena 40
BONAVENTURE, NY – Three separate scoring runs helped St. Bonaventure come back against Siena and then pull away to a comfortable victory in the opening round of the 2015 Preseason WNIT.
The Bonnies (1-0) will play DePaul or Southern Illinois in Round 2 next week, while the Saints (0-1) will play in the consolation round next week at a site to be determined.
Trailing 19-15 in the second quarter, St. Bonaventure went on an 11-0 run to take the lead, then kicked off the third quarter with a 7-0 run to build some breathing room. Siena responded by cutting a 14-point deficit down to seven points at the end of the third quarter, but the Bonnies scored the first seven points of the final quarter to secure their win.
Sophomore forward Miranda Drummond paced St. Bonaventure with 15 points and four assists. Katie Healy, a two-time all-Atlantic 10 selection, scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half to help the team stay in range while adding 13 rebounds overall. Nyla Rueter added 11 points. The Bonnies enjoyed a 42-28 rebounding advantage in the contest.
For the Saints, Kollyns Scarbrough, a sophomore guard, contributed 10 points and four rebounds. Siena shot just 27 percent from the field and had nothing but trouble from long range, going just 1-of-16 from the 3-point line.
Southern Miss 65, Alabama State 44
HATTIESBURG, MS – Southern Miss responded to a mediocre first half in its season-opener, ringing up 31 points in the third quarter and pulling away from Alabama State in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT.
The Lady Eagles (1-0) will play Baylor or UT Arlington in Round 2 next week; the Lady Hornets (0-1) will play next week in the consolation round of the event. Southern Miss outscored Alabama State by 18 points in the third quarter and sealed the result by allowing just five points in the final quarter.
Freshman guard Keri Jewitt-Giles sparkled in her debut for Southern Miss, closing with a near triple-double in ringing up 19 points, 10 steals and eight rebounds. She also contributed five assists. Fellow freshman, center Caitlin Jenkins, scored 14 points and had three blocked shots, and both Jayla King and Brittanny Dinkins scored 10 points. King also reeled in eight rebounds, while Dinkins added a game-high six assists.
Alabama State’s odds of springing the upset began to drop thanks to turnovers, with the team giving the ball up 24 times overall. That allowed Southern Miss to put up 26 more field goal attempts than the Lady Hornets. Kayla Tucker hit three 3-pointers and scored a team-high nine points, while senior center Jasmine Peeples added seven points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots.
Indiana 88, Tennessee State 56
BLOOMINGTON, IN – Indiana launched its 2015-16 season with torrid offense and lock-down defense, taking a huge lead early against Tennessee State and rolling to a victory in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.
The Hoosiers (1-0) advance to a Round 2 matchup and will host Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. ET against Chattanooga or McNeese State; the Lady Tigers (0-1) will play in the consolation round later next week. Indiana’s largest lead was 45 points (64-19), with immediate foul trouble putting Tennessee State in a hole. The Lady Tigers only had 14 points at halftime, shooting just 16 percent from the field and suffering 14 turnovers.
Sophomore guard Tyra Buss had 21 points, eight assists and six steals for Indiana; junior college transfer Tyshee Towner scored 18 points in her first game for the Hoosiers, and Amanda Cahill rang up 17 points and eight rebounds.
Senior guard Brianna Lawrence scored 22 points and added seven rebounds and four steals for Tennessee State; sophomore guard Michelle Cox scored 11 points, but she and fellow starting guard I’Mani Davis were slowed by the early foul trouble.
Although she’s listed at 6-foot-1, Alisia Jenkins walks onto the court for the South Florida women’s basketball team knowing her job as primary rebounder will be tougher than it seems.
In truth, she’s not quite a 6-footer. While that’s tall for the general population, Jenkins has to ply her trade for the Bulls without the advantage of pure heft to get the position she needs. But with unusual determination, she’s a factor where all the dirty work is done, racking up 23 games with double figures in points and rebounds last season.
The same capacity to play above expectations lives within the South Florida program as a whole, with the Bulls emerging as a top 20 program behind a talented international roster and the coaching touch of Jose Fernandez. As recently as 2010-11, South Florida was a modest 12-19 overall, but on the heels of going 27-8 last year, the team is comfortable with envisioning a deep run in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
It’s the best remedy for the burning frustration with how last season ended. Earning the right to play on their home floor, the Bulls won their first-round NCAA game against LSU and had a one-point lead with about 3:30 to go against Louisville in Round 2 before misfiring late and losing by eight points.
“I really reflected on the Louisville game – what could we have done better?” said Jenkins, a senior who should break the school’s all-time rebounding mark about a dozen games into this year’s schedule. “And what could I have done differently? I put all of that into the work I did this summer. We have to be more aggressive; we weren’t aggressive enough against Louisville.
“Team-wise, we want to get past that second round and get all the way to the Final Four. For me, I really want to get the school rebounding record, continue to lead the (American Athletic) Conference in rebounds, and lead the nation in double-doubles. When it’s all said and done, I hope to get drafted, or I’ll go play overseas.”
Speaking of other continents, that’s another notable element to the Bulls. They have seven players on the roster who hail from other countries (Denmark, Kenya, Latvia, Portugal and Spain), and the Latvian freshman, Kitija Laksa, could easily be an all-conference honoree by season’s end. Crossing the border and the ocean is something Fernandez has done from the beginning, when his first year (2000-01) closed at a sobering 4-24 overall.
“We’ve always had an international presence, and have brought in kids from all over the world. Our style of play and the success we’ve had with previous players has helped in that,” said Fernandez, who got a contract extension after last season but turned around and used the funds to endow a scholarship. “They are mature and have played against older competition. There’s no comparison as far as teaching at the grass-roots level – we have more athleticism and more basketball talent, but as far as fundamental skill level and the coaching, the international game does a better job developing players.”
South Florida’s more home-grown weapons include senior guard Courtney Williams, who lead the AAC in scoring last year at 20.3 points per game and was on last summer’s USA Basketball team that claimed a gold medal in South Korea. At 5-8, Williams scored a school-record 710 points on the season; she’s also a force on the boards, averaging 7.5 rebounds per game.
With a veteran squad that has talent bursting at the seams, Fernandez did the early work of getting people accustomed to their roles. The team took a 12-day trip to Spain, playing four games there and getting gin 10 practices before the journey.
So with the roster settling into place, and both Jenkins and Williams determined to close their careers on a high note, the Bulls will be no fun to face in the weeks ahead.
“This is their last go-round, their final years, and they both had very good off-seasons,” added Fernandez, whose teams are 72-32 over the past three seasons. “It was uncharacteristic how last year ended, because we were in a lot of close games. But Louisville – we didn’t close it out. We know how every possession is important, both ends of the floor, and ow the last two or three minutes are magnified.”
The Preseason WNIT offers teams a three-game window to try out new lineup options, add some heft to their non-conference schedule, and start the search for solutions to any little hiccups that have popped up since the start of official practice in October.
Here’s a look at four programs who are coming to the Preseason WNIT for the first time – whether it’s a chance to spring an upset, or hold their turf as the favored squad in a given matchup, these teams expect to emerge from the event more prepared for the conference grind.
ALABAMA STATE – The Lady Hornets finished 17-15 last season, winning two nail-biters in the SWAC Tournament before stomping Southern in the title game to claim the crown and secure the program’s second berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Britney Wright averaged about 17 points and seven rebounds per game; the 5-foot-10 junior forward was named the preseason Player of the Year in the SWAC, and she offers a steady shooting eye from 3-point range as well as strength and quickness. Another player getting early attention is Jasmine Peeples, a 6-2 senior center who averaged better than 10 rebounds and three blocked shots per game. Both players are easing back into action after nursing injuries over the summer and early fall.
“Our success from last year has carried over to this year. Something that we started at the end of the season this past year was getting our mindset to where we change the culture of our team in having a winning program here at Alabama State,” said head coach Freda Freeman-Jackson, who played at ASU from 1980-84 and has coached the team for 16 years. “We felt that our players have bought into it. We have a lot of new players and we realized that we had to slow some things down a little in order for our young players to understand what we are trying to do.”
Sophomore Shamyiah Smith, a 5-2 guard, earned second-team preseason honors in the SWAC and should offer explosive quickness in the backcourt. Damya Toney is a JUCO transfer who should help with some offensive burst, and fellow JUCO product Danielle Clark should also get a chance to contribute as the Lady Hornets try to anchor themselves as a factor in the SWAC.
“As everyone knows, preseason is usually tough,” Freeman-Jackson said. “We open up against Southern Miss in the WNIT; if we beat them then we may have to play against Baylor, which we expect to be a tough game, but we are going to play with our best ability and go into the game with the mentality that we can win. After that we play Georgia Tech, which is an ACC team, so we have a tough schedule like we have been having every year.”
Alabama State plays at Southern Miss on Nov. 13.
JACKSONVILLE – The Dolphins were 12-17 last season, but the program has some anchor points on the roster, players who are still young but have looked more than capable in the heat of competition.
Sherranda Reddick averaged 14 points per game and enters her junior year with a proven shooting eye, enough to earn a unanimous selection to the all-Atlantic Sun preseason team. Two sophomores, Kayla Gordon and Brandi Buie, became fixtures in the starting lineup as last year evolved, with Gordon earning Freshman of the Year honors in the conference.
Head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin has an interesting resume, as she is also the head coach for the women’s national team from the Bahamas. The Atlantic Sun has the potential to be a bit unsettled, as Florida Gulf Coast (which was ranked in the preseason top 25 by ESPN) will be without guard Whitney Knight for up to six weeks because of a broken foot.
Jacksonville plays at South Florida to start the WNIT, on Nov. 13.
SOUTHERN MISS – The Lady Eagles went 25-11 last season and won 13 of its last 17 games, riding that hot streak all the way to the quarterfinals of the postseason WNIT. They fell short to Michigan at home, but more than 5,400 fans showed up, the most in program history.
Jerontay Clemons is the lone senior on the squad; she topped 12 points and six rebounds per game and also led the team in steals. A two-time state track and field champion (200, 400 meters) in high school, Clemons is a terror on defense. The roster has an intriguing weapon in freshman Caitlin Jenkins, a 6-3 center who led all of Louisiana high schools in averaging 30 points and 14 rebounds per game.
As it turned out, thanks to injuries and transfers, only four players from last year’s active roster are back for 2015-16, but head coach Joye Lee-McNelis says the mindset to win is intact.
“We’re going to be a whole lot quicker than we were last year,” Lee-McNelis said. “Our guards are extremely athletic. They’re very fast. We’re off to the races. We want to shove it down their throat.”
Southern Miss will host Alabama State on Nov. 13.
ST. BONAVENTURE – The Bonnies were 15-15 last year and return five players who started more than 20 games, although the tough Atlantic 10 is expected to make the jump to the next level a difficult one.
Senior forward Katie Healy, however, was named to the all-league preseason first team; she topped 14 points and six rebounds per game and was also valuable in terms of assists and steals.
“I expect her to compete and work at the level she’s able to, which is a very high level,” said head coach Jim Crowley. “She stayed around all summer and worked really hard. She’s increased her range and has improved her handle.”
St. Bonaventure will be trying to take better care of the ball this time around (15 turnovers per game last year was the norm), and also hope for better production from 3-point range. Nyla Rueter was the team’s best shooter and will likely need to add to that for the team to improve.
“We feel good about our experience. We had a productive offseason,” Crowley added. “It’s been an intense spring and summer, and we’re ready to play against someone else (as opposed to practicing among themselves). We’ve stayed healthy and we keep getting better.”
St. Bonaventure will host Siena to start the WNIT on Nov. 13.
Not every college basketball program likes the idea of a tough non-conference schedule, but teams with serious aspirations for the postseason know you better get some early tests if you want to have answers for March Madness.
Two teams making their debut in the Preseason WNIT - Tennessee State and UT Arlington - will face more well-known competition when the event fires up Nov. 13. But both programs are feeling confident after posting some signature victories in 2014-15, and are expected to kick up a little dust by the time their three games in the WNIT are finished.
TENNESSEE STATE: The Lady Tigers aren’t living in the past, but then again, memories of their overtime win against UT Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament final are still driving the heartbeat of the roster.
And why not? That put Tennessee State into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years and signified the rebuilding skills of coach Larry Joe Inman were as sharp as ever. Inman became one of 10 coaches to take three programs to the NCAA tourney (previous stints were at Middle Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky), and the Lady Tigers were in sore need of that certain touch.
“First thing, we had to teach the team how to win and not settle for mediocrity,” said Inman, seeing how the program had just one winning season in the previous 17 years. “I’ll never forget after that first year; we won 10 games, and they were ready to party! They were ecstatic about it, and I guess it was a stepping stone.
“The greatest thing about last year was, we persevered through some tough times. They had the confidence they could win it all (in the OVC tourney), and they’re determined to do it again. These players want to uphold that tradition now; you don’t want to be the one who doesn’t hold up your end of the bargain. They want another ring and to do great things.”
Although the pace Inman prefers will lead to some turnover clusters, he’s got a team that otherwise thrives at a higher tempo. Junior forward I’mani Davis is a springy 6-footer who guards them all, short guards to hefty post players, and she’ll be asked to provide more consistent offense while chasing down the important rebounds. Senior guard Brianna Lawrence was the OVC tourney’s MVP and is clever with ball as well as a dynamite defender.
“They get the toughest defensive assignments every night, and our defense dictates how we play,” said Inman, whose team was 18-13 last season and lost to Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. “We led the conference in steals, and I’m proud of what we did defensively. I feel the offense will take care of itself.”
Jayda Johnson, a 6-foot junior forward, played in all 31 games last season and should comfortably fill one of the vacancies on the front line. The Lady Tigers will also look to sophomore Markayla Parker for some depth at guard and forward.
Three freshmen should get a chance to contribute - 6-5 center Tyesha Hood, 5-9 guard Asia Sims and 5-8 guard Naomi Bolasingh.
Inman said there’s plenty of tenacity in the air, with the Lady Tigers picked to finish only fifth in the preseason OVC poll, and having no players named to either the first or second team in the all-OVC balloting.
“When I want to motivate them, I say, ‘Well you’re just the fifth-best team in the league, so there’s no reason to do it right,’” Inman said. “We’ve been competitive the past two years, we play a tough early schedule, and for them not to respect you is a little disheartening. It gets to me a bit, as an old coach.”
Tennessee State will play at Indiana in the first round of the WNIT.
UT ARLINGTON: The Lady Mavs were a modest 4-25 overall in 2013-14, the first year under head coach Krista Gerlich, but she reset the roster with 12 new players and saw her team catch on fast by improving to a 17-13 record last season. UT Arlington won eight of its last 11 games on the slate and gave the upper-division teams in the Sun Belt Conference such as Texas State and Arkansas State a scare or two with some close finishes.
Sophomore center Rebekah VanDijk had a breakout debut, earning the league’s Freshman of the Year honor with 15 double-doubles. She averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds per game, impressing observers with her ability to get up and down the floor. She and the other four starters during the stretch run of 2014-15 are back, providing a welcomed sense of continuity.
"The kids have done a good job of putting themselves in the mix," Gerlich said about the season. "I think it is about experience, and we were in a bunch of games where we could have won, but the other team had veteran players and refused to lose. We had four kids that had played in a Division I basketball game before this year, and they just didn't know what to expect physically and didn't have the mental toughness you have to have.
"I think that we were really close, and I was really pleased with how close we were.”
Sophomore guard Cierra Johnson was the fresh-faced spark in the backcourt, scoring about nine points per game and coming away with 81 steals. Another key contributor is senior guard LaShanda Green, who had a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio and was the team’s best 3-point shooter by a wide margin.
More punch from long range is a key in the modern college game, and Gerlich has brought in two players who profile as talented shooters — SMU transfer Kamy Cole and and JUCO transfer Breck Clark.
If the Lady Mavs can get some balance and provide threats around the lineup, teams won’t be able to lean so heavily on VanDijk, who is sure to be a focal point of defenses after that stellar freshman campaign.
“More than anything because of the type of kid Rebekah is, she's going to really have to guard against putting that pressure on herself,” Gerlich said. “She's such a perfectionist and wants to do everything exactly right when we're coaching her, and we've already seen a little bit of that in the preseason of her putting a little too much pressure on herself and not being as productive as she'd like to be. So I think she's going to have to guard against her own self more than anything. But she has such a great work ethic, and her teammates really love her that I feel like that she's going to really succeed no matter what.”
UT Arlington will plat at Baylor in the first round of the WNIT.