H-SPORTS

Mar 22, 2013 1:57 AM by Andrew Masuda

Mustangs thinking upset headed into NCAA Tournament debut

The Cal Poly women's basketball team is thinking upset as it departs from campus on Friday morning for the program's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

The Mustangs captured their first-ever Big West Tournament title last weekend and are 21-10 overall. The 14th seed in the Spokane Regional faces third seeded Penn State in the first round about 2:15 pm California time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"They've very, very powerful. They're very, very good. We've got our five little stones as David ready to go against Goliath," said 16th year head coach Faith Mimnaugh.

Penn State is 25-5 and ranked 8th in the nation. The Lady Lions are making their 24th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They're led by 5-10 junior Maggie Lewis. She is one of 15 finalists for the John Wooden Award. She ranks 13th in the NCAA with 20.5 points per game. She ranks fourth with a .475 3-point shooting percentage and 11th with an .896 mark from the free throw line. She is the Big 10 Conference Player of the Year.

Cal Poly has spent a lot of practice time this week preparing for Lewis. "They have a really good shooter, she won Big 10 player of the year. So we've been focusing on guarding her as much as we can and as hard as we can. We're also focusing on their post play for me mostly," said junior center Molly Schlemer. The 6-5 Santa Maria native was named Big West Player of the Year and Tournament MVP after averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds per game. Coming off a 22 point effort in the Tournament championship, sophomore Ariana Elegado averages 12 points per game and is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range, which ranks 27th in the nation. Junior point guard Jonae Ervin ranks third in the nation with a 2.64-1 assist to turnover ratio.

The Mustangs also have to watch out for 6-4 senior Nikki Greene, who averages 9 points and 8 rebounds, and senior guard Alex Bentley, who averages 14 points.

The team has one common opponent, Cal State Northridge. Penn State beat the Matadors 87-73 back in November. The Mustangs went 1-1 against the Matadors during the regular season.

"I think it's a really neat opportunity since we are the 14 seed and we have absolutely nothing to lose. So we can just play as hard as we can and it's one more opportunity to play a game," said senior forward Caroline Reeves.

Since 1994, the #3 seed has gone 76-0 against #14 seeds in the first round in the women's Division I Tournament.

The Mustangs have already lost starters Brittany Woodard (11 points, 6 rebounds/game) and Kayla Griffin (8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists/game) to season-ending knee injuries.

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