March 16, 2011

Pioneers and Jaspers Tangle In WBI First Round Thursday Night

2011 Women's Basketball Invitational Bracket

Complete Game Notes - #4 Sacred Heart at #5 Manhattan

The Storyline...  The SHU women's basketball team returns to the postseason in 2011 as the fourth seed in the east region of the Women's Basketball Invitational.  The Pioneers take to the road to face-off with #5 Manhattan in the first round.  Sacred Heart last played deep into March in the 2009 NCAA tournament against Ohio State.   The winner of the first round match-up will advance to the quarterfinals against either top seed Wright State or #8 Buffalo.  The Jaspers return to postseason play after a seven year absence, competing in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.  SHU will look to rebound from a loss in the Northeast Conference quarterfinals while the Jaspers were eliminated in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament.  The WBI is a 16 team tournament that crowned its inaugural champion last season.  Manhattan has posted a 10-5 record inside Draddy Gymnasium in 2010-11 while Sacred Heart is 7-6 on the road.  The Pioneers have only lost back-to-back games three times this season.  SHU is the first team from the Northeast Conference to ever participate in the Women's Basketball Invitational.

Series...  The Pioneers and Jaspers are tied in the all-time series with each side winning one game on its home floor.  SHU took last year's meeting in the Pitt Center 64-45 as Callan Taylor recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.  Manhattan knocked off Sacred Heart in November of 2008 as the Jaspers claimed a 68-62 decision in Riverdale, NY. 

Scouting the Jaspers...  Abby Wentworth has been the brightest star for a Manhattan team that has won a school record 22 games this season.  Wentworth's 14.3 points per game earned the senior first team All-MAAC honors as well as a spot on the 2011 MAAC all-tournament squad.  Wentworth and Nadia Peters have started every game for the Jaspers this season, Peters is the squad's leading rebounder in 2010-11 with 6.2 boards per contest.  Manhattan finished the league portion of its schedule with a 13-5 record and like the Pioneers were the third seed in their conference tournament.  The Jaspers opened the season with its only other NEC opponent of the year, winning a 63-34 tilt with St. Francis (NY).  However, the Jaspers suffered a one point loss to Albany earlier this season, a team Sacred Heart defeated by nine, 61-52.  Manhattan has been an outstanding defensive squad throughout 2010-11 as opponents are averaging just 49.9 points per game against the Jaspers, a mark that ranks second in all of division I.

SHU Against the MAAC... The Pioneers are 15-18 (.455) all-time against opponents who currently reside in the MAAC. However, SHU is 5-1 in the last two seasons versus the MAAC, picking up two wins over St. Peter's and a win each over Manhattan, Siena, and Fairfield.  Sacred Heart's best head-to-head in the MAAC comes with a 2-0 mark against the Rider Broncs.

Sacred Heart in the Postseason...  The Pioneers are 0-2 all-time at the division I level in post season appearances outside of the Northeast Conference tournament.  Sacred Heart has twice received the NEC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with an upset bid falling just short against Ohio State in 2009 and losing to eventual national champion Maryland in 2006.  This will be the Pioneers first appearance in the Women's Basketball Invitational, SHU has never played in the postseason WNIT.

Blue Deviled Again...  For the second straight season the Pioneers were upset in the NEC tournament quarterfinals by #6 Central Connecticut State.  The Blue Devils held Sacred Heart to 49 points as every SHU starter scored at least five points but no one reached double-digits.  However, unlike last year Sacred Heart's season will not end with the Blue Devils as the Pioneers look to make noise in the 2011 Women's Basketball Invitational.

Fourth Seed, Top RPI... The Pioneers are the fourth seed in the east region of the 16 team tournament but boast the top RPI in the entire bracket.  Sacred Heart's RPI sits at 110 overall while the NEC ranks 18th in the conference RPI.  SHU's first round opponent, Manhattan holds an RPI of 184 while the second best RPI in the east region belongs to Wright State at 143, a potential quarterfinal opponent for the Pioneers.  The second best RPI in the tournament belongs to the top seed of the west region as Cleveland State ranks 133rd in the nation.

Let's Play to 70...  Sacred Heart is 7-0 this season when reaching the 70 point plateau.  The Pioneers last scored 70+ in back-to-back wins over Bryant and Central Connecticut State.  SHU also holds a 0-3 record in 2010-11 when opponents notch at least 70 points.  Sacred Heart is 9-2 when tallying 60-69 points and is 2-10 without reaching the 60 point mark. 

Keeping Them Down...  Sacred Heart is 14-0 this season when they lead heading into the intermission.  The Pioneers are16-1 in 2010-11 when having an advantage with ten minutes remaining in regulation.  SHU holds an 18-1 mark when leading with 5:00 minutes to play with the only loss coming against Wagner as SHU led by one late after overcoming a 10 point Seahawk advantage in the second half.