The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Women look for an upset over Notre Dame

SMU heads for West Lafayette, Ind., Friday for round one of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. The 24-8 Mustangs will take on No. 15 Notre Dame for the first time in the NCAA Tournament in Sunday’s matchup to see who will advance to round two.

SMU will play in the Oklahoma City region, along with No. 3 Tennessee, No. 8 Texas A&M, who SMU lost to at the beginning of the season, and No. 9 Duke. Should the Mustangs defeat the Fighting Irish, they will take on the winner between No. 14 Oklahoma and Illinois State at Sunday’s location on March 25.

After hearing SMU’s placement in the Okalahoma City region, head coach Rhonda Rompola commented, “I would have loved to been higher, but it is what it is. We’ve got to go in and win games in the tournament. That’s how you get respect.”

Sunday’s game marks the Mustangs’ seventh appearance in the championship series. SMU secured a spot in the tournament after defeating the University of Texas-El Paso in the Conference USA Tournament.

The Mustangs made their last appearance in the tournament in 2000 under Rompola, but lost in a 96-76 battle to Old Dominion in the second round. SMU also recorded its previous season high of 22 wins after defeating North Carolina State in the first round that season.

Rompola feared her team’s chances of qualifying for the championship was a long shot. Upon defeating UTEP Rompola breathed a sigh of relief, explaining, “I can say this now because we’re in, but I honestly thought the Tulane game really hurt us.”

Notre Dame earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament for the 13th consecutive season, the 15th time in school history, after finishing fourth in the Big East Conference, and tying the school’s single-season record for 10 30-point wins and seven 90-point games. Notre Dame picked up big victories against No. 15 Pittsburgh and No. 21 Syracuse.

The Fighting Irish are 23-13 all-time in 14 previous NCAA tournament appearances, and have won 11 of their past 12 NCAA first-round games. Notre Dame has been to the Sweet 16 six times in the past 11 seasons, giving them the eighth-longest streak after receiving a tournament berth 13 consecutive times.

SMU enters the tournament posting the highest number of wins in the program’s history, earning it 11 votes in AP polls and eight votes in ESPN and USA Today polls.

Senior Janielle Dodds leads the Mustangs with 479 points on the season, which averages to 15 points per game, making her the fifth-highest scorer in the conference. She also averages 7.6 rebounds per game .

Dodds leads C-USA in free-throw percentage, hitting 86.3 percent of her shots from the line.

“I’m excited [about making it to the tournament],” said Dodds. “I’ve never been there. Katy [Cobb] and I have been here for four years and we’ve never been to an NCAA Tournament, so we’re really excited to have another game.”

Sophomore Delisha Wills comes in at No. 16 in C-USA, having 368 points on the season, and averaging 12.3 points per game. Senior Sharee Shepherd holds a team-high 98 steals and 29 blocks this season, putting her in third place in the conference for most steals.

The teams met for the first time in the 1981-82 season, with the Fighting Irish sweeping the Mustangs 76-60 in South Bend, Ind. SMU evened the field to 1-1, defeating Notre Dame two years later in a close 64-63 victory at Moody Coliseum.

In a press conference following Monday’s bracket selection Dodds said, “Beating UTEP gave us reassurance that we can beat any team. But we know going in that any team we play is going to be good.”

Notre Dame is led by Big East elite player in points and steals, Charel Allen. She averages 14.5 points per game and 5.4 rebounds, and shines as one of the Irish’s leading perimeter shooters. While Allen is complimented by teammates Ashley Barlow (11.7 ppg) and Lindsey Schrader (10.4 ppg), the Mustangs have Notre Dame’s last two failing performances to boost their confidence.

“We’re just happy to be going somewhere,” said Shepherd. “There are a lot of good teams out there who will be sitting at home.”

Sunday’s game at Purdue University’s Mackey Arena is scheduled to tip off at 1:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast in a “whiparound coverage” form, with all four other games in the Oklahoma City region sharing time on ESPN and ESPNU. The game can be heard on the radio on KKGM (1630).

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