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Quinnipiac women’s basketball prepares for NCAA Tournament
Bobcats will face Marquette with hopes of earning first national tournament win
The Quinnipiac women’s basketball team is set to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first round of the 2017 Division I Women’s Basketball championship at 1:35 p.m. in Coral Gables, Florida on Saturday.
This season’s appearance is the third for the Bobcats in the last five seasons, but they have yet to capture an elusive national tournament win.
Quinnipiac has lost both of its previous appearances in the national tournament. The No. 13-seeded Bobcats dropped a 72-52 contest to Maryland in 2013 and fell to fifth-seeded Oklahoma, 111-84, in 2015.
Riding a 10-game winning streak, this year’s squad is aiming to make more of their opportunity on the national stage.
“This isn’t just nice to be here anymore. This is an opportunity that we’ve worked hard (for),” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “We’ve been here before. Now it’s time to take the next step in the program and put ourselves in a position to win a game.
The Bobcats clinched their automatic berth to the NCAA tournament with a 81-73 win over the Rider Broncs in the MAAC Championship game on March 6. Sophomore Aryn McClure led the Bobcats in the title game with 28 points on 8 for 12 shooting from the field and 12 for 14 from the free-throw line.
Senior Adily Martucci was named MAAC Tournament MVP after averaging 16.3 points across the team’s three wins.
“I do like the lights. I do like big moments like those,” Martucci said. “I also came in this season saying I am not going to leave without (the MAAC Championship) trophy, so I guess it was the confidence. When the time came, I knew what I had to do, and I just did it.”
Quinnipiac’s run through the MAAC was far from dominant. The Bobcats overcame a deficit of more than eight points in each game in the conference tournament. While they dug themselves out in their last three games, they do not want to fall into holes in the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think we can let those deficits take place during this type of tournament,” Martucci said. “That’s going to be really hard to come back from. I think that offensively, we need to be sound right of the get in order to win games like these.”
Quinnipiac has gotten a taste of tournament teams throughout its season. The team has gone 4-3 against the field of 64 this season with wins over four conference champions in Dayton, Florida Gulf Coast, Long Beach State and New Mexico State.
The Bobcats got a chunk of this experience in the Play 4Kay Shootout in Las Vegas back in December. There, the team faced New Mexico State, Long Beach State and Oregon State, which is a No. 2 seed in the Stockton Region of the NCAA Tournament. Quinnipiac has gone 18-3 since returning from Sin City, but the experience has come back around to help the team.
“(Play 4Kay) was a springboard. It set the tone,” Fabbri said. “Nonconference schedule is something we can control, and that’s really important to days like this when you get the seeding.”
Quinnipiac is not the only team rolling into this matchup, though. Marquette, which is riding an eight-game winning streak, won its first ever BIG EAST title to earn a No. 5 seed in the Stockton Region. Sophomore guard Natisha Hiedeman led the Golden Eagles with 28 points in the BIG EAST title game while sophomore guard Amani Wilborn tacked on 20 points as they defeated Depaul, 86-78.
Quinnipiac’s roster has championship experience at the MAAC level, but most players will be making their first appearance in the big dance on Saturday. Yet, that has not set them off from eying a landmark for the program.
“(The veteran players) told us it is nerve-wracking,” McClure said, “But they’ve never won a tournament game, and this is time for us to make history.”