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Women’s Basketball: Historic run ends hard

Women’s Basketball: Historic run ends hard

Women’s Basketball: Historic run ends hard

First-round loss difficult to swallow for UL

AUSTIN, Texas – Not many first-time teams had success on the first day of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. In fact, none of the teams making an inaugural NCAA appearance won on Saturday.

That wasn’t much consolation for UL coach J. Kelley Hall, whose team wound up on the bad end of an 87-58 loss to Marquette in a first-round contest Saturday afternoon at Texas’ Frank Erwin Center.

"I don’t think it was nerves," Hall said of his team’s performance in its Dayton Regional opener. "That’s a competitive bunch, and they were embarrassed about their play."

It was a disappointing ending to the best season in the program’s history, one in which UL set school records for overall wins, road wins and Sun Belt Conference wins on the way to a 25-9 final record.

UL also won the Sun Belt’s Western Division for the second time in three seasons and reached the finals of the league tournament before losing 77-67 to the nation’s hottest team in Middle Tennessee (27 straight wins after its Saturday 85-46 win over Gonzaga in Palo Alto, Calif.).

None of the Cajuns, though, were patting themselves on the back for their solid season Saturday. Mostly, the players were upset at their performance on the season’s biggest stage.

"We had 14 turnovers for the game, and we average 16 a game," said senior guard Jeanenne Colbert. "I wouldn’t necessarily say that Marquette came out and stopped us. I think that we stopped ourselves on a lot of things as far as shots not going in, missing free throws and rebounding."

UL hit only 22-of-67 shots from the floor, a 32.8 percentage, and only 10-of-19 free throws. The Cajuns, the leading rebounding team in the Sun Belt and ranked seventh nationally in rebound margin (?9.8), were outboarded by a huge 47-34 difference.

"It started to get frustrating when our shots weren’t falling," said guard Onna Charles. "But we had to stay motivated, push through it, get rebounds and get open looks."

Rebounds and open shots became precious quantities as the Cajuns’ first-ever mid-March game progressed. The 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles saw to that on the way to only their third-ever NCAA Tournament win in 10 tries.

"It doesn’t matter how much you prepare," Hall said. "You can’t give up second chances and not do all the little things, because at the end of the day all those things add up."

Marquette’s post-season experience shone through. The Eagles last made an NCAA Tournament trip three seasons ago, but reached the finals of last year’s WNIT, and the previous outings on that stage turned into a huge advantage.

"Anything can happen at this time of year," said MU coach Terri Mitchell. "We talked about playing confident … you can’t walk on the court with any doubts."

That confidence helped the Eagles bolt out to a 30-7 advantage, and UL’s postseason rookies never recovered.

"You have to be warriors when you get to this point," Hall said. "You’ve got to have that if you’re going to be a success on this level, and we didn’t have that this time."

LAGNIAPPE: The Sun Belt has four women’s teams in postseason play, the second-highest total in league history, and two have recorded wins. Middle Tennessee, a number five seed in the NCAA Tournament, rolled past Gonzaga 85-46 Saturday night in Palo Alto, Calif., and will face Marist, which upset Ohio State, in tonight’s second round.

Arkansas State won its WNIT opener 59-52 at home over Murray State Thursday before losing at Wisconsin 77-45 in Sunday’s second round. Western Kentucky hosts Minnesota in tonight’s WNIT second round after getting a first-round bye.