November 11, 2011 – UCLA, taking the court for the first time since wrapping up one of its best seasons in school history, continued its winning ways Friday with a 67-59 season-opening victory over McNeese State in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
UCLA, ranked No. 22 in the country under new head coach Cori Close, is hoping to build on last year’s 28-5 mark and second-place finish in the Pac-10 Conference. The Bruins now advance to the second round of the WNIT, and will host Tennessee Tech at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.
McNeese State, which last year tied for the best turnaround in NCAA history by following a 7-22 record with a 26-7 mark that included the Southland Conference title, kept it close in the first half before UCLA went on an 8-0 run to start the second half. Ashlyn Baggett led McNeese with 15 points. The Cowgirls will play next weekend in Consolation Rounds 1&2, with details to be announced Saturday.
UCLA had a well-balanced attack with four players in double figures. Rhema Gardner had 18 points and 3 rebounds, and Atonye Nyingifa had 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Tennessee Tech jumped out to a big lead at halftime and held on to defeat host ETSU 87-76. Kellie Cook led all scorers with 36 points and 7 rebounds for Tennessee Tech, which won the Ohio Valley Conference title last season and is picked to do it again this year. Tech will play at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday at UCLA.
ETSU’s Destiny Mitchell, returning from a knee injury, scored 22 points and added six rebounds for the Bucs, who have been to the postseason in four of the past five years.
Baylor left no doubt as to their national ranking of No. 1 in the country, as the Bears defeated Howard 82-28. Baylor’s Brittney Griner, the ESPN and Big 12 Conference Preseason Player of the Year, had 22 points, 13 rebounds, and eight blocks in 26 minutes of action. Baylor will host Chattanooga at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday in Round 2.
Howard, with Tamoria Holmes’ nine points, will play in the consolation round next weekend.
Chattanooga and UAB played in a barnburner for their first game of the year, with Chattanooga edging out the Blazers 65-59 in the final minute. Chattanooga, led by Kylie Lambert and Taylor Hall’s 13 points apiece, will play at Baylor in Round 2 on Sunday.
UAB, led by 16 points each by Amber Jones and Karisma Chapman, will play in next weekend’s consolation round, with details to be announced Saturday.
Notre Dame, ranked No. 2 in the nation, defeated Akron 81-61 behind 21 points and eight assists from Skylar Diggins to win its 17th straight season opener. The Fighting Irish, coached by Muffet McGraw in her 25th season there, will host Round 2 beginning at 2 p.m. ET Sunday, Nov. 13 against Indiana State.
Akron, who had Rachel Tecca score 13 points and add eight rebounds, will play in next weekend’s consolation round.
Indiana State and Detroit battled fiercely, with Indiana State getting a 64-62 edge at the buzzer. The Sycamores, led by Taylor Whitley’s 16 points, play at Notre Dame at 2 p.m. ET Sunday in Round 2.
Shareta Brown scored 25 points for Detroit, which will play in next weekend’s consolation games.
Long Island’s Ebony Davis scored 18 pts to help the Blackbirds defeat host Drexel 60-52. Long Island will play at Hartford in Round 2 on Sunday. Drexel, led by Hollie Mershon’s 26 points, will play in next weekend’s consolation round.
Hartford exploded in the second half to earn a 64-45 victory over Manhattan and earn the right to host Long Island at 4 p.m. ET Sunday in Round 2. Ruthanne Doherty (19 points) led the way for Hartford, the reigning America East tournament champs.
Manhattan, coming off a strong 24-10 season, had three players with nine points each. The Jaspers will play in next weekend’s consolation games, details of which will be announced Saturday.
Here are Friday’s results:
Friday, Nov. 11, 2011
UCLA 67, McNeese State 59
Long Island 60, Drexel 52
Chattanooga 65, UAB 59
Tennessee Tech 87, ETSU 76
Notre Dame 81, Akron 61
Baylor 82, Howard 28
Indiana State 64, Detroit 62
Hartford 64, Manhattan 45
Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011
Indiana State at Notre Dame, 2 p.m. ET
Chattanooga at Baylor, 3 p.m. ET
LIU at Hartford, 4 p.m. ET
Tennessee Tech at UCLA, 5 p.m. ET
Consolation Round 1&2, Details TBA
Fri/Sat, Nov. 18/19, 2011
Winners of Friday’s games advance to play in Round 2 games Sunday. The losers of Friday’s games will move to Consolation Rounds 1&2, details of which will be announced Saturday, Nov. 12.
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