women’s tournament: gophers gameday
4 P.M. VS. DePaul • south bend, ind. • TV: ESPN2, 1570-AM
The No. 8 seed in the Oklahoma City regional, the Gophers (23-9) are making their ninth NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2009. They are 2-1 in NCAA tournament games at Notre Dame, including a first-round upset of the Irish in 2009, and have won their first-round game in six of their previous eight trips to the tournament. Neither coach Marlene Stollings nor any of her players have appeared in the NCAA tournament before. The Gophers have not played since March 6, when they lost to Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament; that has given a much-needed break to the five starters, each of whom averages at least 32 minutes per game. Stollings said she has added some new twists on offense and defense, but she predicts the keys to the game will be simple: Limit turnovers, defend the three-pointer and take advantage of their size advantage inside.
The ninth-seeded Blue Demons (26-7) are making their 13th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance with an experienced lineup coached by Doug Bruno, now in his 29th season. Senior guard Brittany Hrynko was named Big East player of the year, averaging 19.6 points per game as the Blue Demons tied for the league’s regular-season crown and won the conference tournament. DePaul is second in Division I in scoring offense (86.8 points per game), three-pointers per game (10.5), steals per game (12.4) and turnover margin (+10.79). Its excellent long-range shooting is complemented by an aggressive, pressing defense. The team has made a school-record 346 three-pointers, scoring 10 or more in 19 games. Sophomore guard Jessica January of Richfield was an honorable mention all-Big East selection and has started all 33 games, averaging 11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
(1) Notre Dame vs. (16) Montana, 6:30 p.m.: The top seed in the region, the Irish (31-2) are aiming for their fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four in their 20th consecutive tournament appearance. They have won their past 17 games, earning the ACC regular-season and tournament titles. Notre Dame is 94-6 on its home floor since 2009-10 and has won its first-round NCAA tournament game in 17 of the past 19 seasons. Guard Jewell Loyd was named espnW’s national player of the year earlier this week. Montana (24-8) won the Big Sky conference regular-season and tournament titles and is making its 21st NCAA tournament appearance. The Lady Griz play outstanding defense and are ranked fourth in field-goal percentage defense (.340).