March 14, 2004
INDIANAPOLIS - The Tiger women are dancin' again. With two players still buoyed by the memories of a magical Sweet Sixteen run in 2001, the University of Missouri women's basketball team, under the direction of sixth-year Head Coach Cindy Stein, is the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region at the 2004 NCAA National Championship Tournament.
The 17-12 Tigers received an at-large bid and will travel to Tempe, Ariz., for first-round play beginning this Saturday, March 20. Mizzou will play No. 6 seed Stanford (24-6), while in the sub-regional's other game, No. 3 Oklahoma (23-8) will face No. 14 Marist (20-10). NOTE: Game times and television status will be announced by the NCAA Women's Basketball Committee on Monday, March 15. The winners of Saturday's games will play on Monday.
This year's NCAA bid marks the eighth in the program's history; Mizzou's last appearance was at a sub-regional in Athens, Ga., where a 10th-seeded Tiger squad scored a pair of upsets - first over No. 7 seed Wisconsin, and then again over host and No. 2 seed Georgia - to advance to just the second Sweet Sixteen in the team's history. Missouri is 4-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford won both the Pac-10 regular-season and tournament titles, and is making its 17th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under Head Coach Tara VanDerveer. The Cardinal are led by senior forward and two-time Kodak First-Team All-American Nicole Powell, who is averaging a double-double this season with team-leading totals of 20.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Stanford is on a four-game winning streak after beating Cal, UCLA and Arizona in San Jose at the Pac-10 Tournament.
Oklahoma earned the Big 12's automatic bid by beating Texas, 66-47, on Saturday in Dallas. The Sooners earned their fifth straight bid and are one of the hottest teams in the country after beating Texas A&M, Colorado, Kansas State and the Longhorns en route to the Big 12 title. Head Coach Sherri Coale's squad is led by senior guard Maria Villaroel, who is averaging 14.6 points per game, and senior forward Caton Hill, who averages 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.
Marist, led by second-year Head Coach Brian Giorgis, is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's automatic bid. The Red Foxes are led by senior G/F Stephanie Del Preore, who is averaging 14.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game.
For the latest on sites, dates, TV coverage, and for printable brackets, visit www.FinalFour.net.
Missouri Head Coach Cindy Stein
On getting into the tournament:
"I am so proud of these ladies. They have fought through all different types of adversity. I love the fact that they have an opportunity... and we are happy to be in the dance."
On the turnaround in conference play(started 0-4):
"They never gave up and worked extremely hard. They practiced hard today not knowing what our fate was going to be. These young ladies have been trying to stay focused all year and not get wrapped up in all of this speculation. You just takes things day by day and it got us through."
On the merits of senior leadership:
"We expected to be in this position this year with the senior leadership. I think that it is a credit to our players."
On the satisfaction of getting back into the NCAA Tournament:
"Everyone wants to get into the NCAA. That is good for us. We love the opportunity that the NIT presented to us, because it made us better as a program. It put the building blocks together for this. Obviously we love the NCAA and we want to be here every year."
Missouri Senior Forward Evan Unrau
On the start of conference:
"We started the season with a lot of confidence thinking that the NCAA is where we would end up. It was a big blow to us and we had to regroup. We had to deal with what we had and find a way to be successful."
On the preparation:
"It is really good to play against Stanford because they have a good coach and a lot of tradition. I think our trip in 2001[NCAA Sweet Sixteen] will help a lot. We have the experience of what the event is like.
On the Anticipation:
"It was a matter of anticipation and where you are going to go. I just hoped nothing freakish happened and we did not get in.
Missouri Senior Forward Stretch James
On facing elimination:
"We all want to get it done. We just want to continue to play hard and work hard in practice. This is my last year. I just want to play. It doesn't really matter where we play. All I want to do is play good."
On motivation from last year's NIT:
"I wasn't here in 2001, but the NIT invite last year really motivated us to practice and play hard to get to the NCAA. This is a dream. We just need to go in there and get it done."
Missouri Senior Forward Tracy Lozier
On facing Stanford:
"I don't think we're nervous or anything. They're a great team, but it's a new season and any team is beatable."
On the toughness of Missouri's schedule:
"The Big 12 is a really tough conference. It says a lot going in and playing against ranked teams every night of the week. We were talking about this when we looked at the schedule. These (non-conference) teams are winning their conference tournaments and proving that we're a good team."