Eighth-Seeded Lady Buffs Battle Top-Seeded Ashland in Elite Eight Tuesday Evening
CANYON, Texas – The West Texas A&M women’s basketball team, seeded eighth in this year’s Elite Eight, makes its third Elite Eight appearance in the last four years as it battles top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Ashland University Tuesday at 5 p.m. CT at Alumni Hall on the campus of Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio. It is the third game of four games Tuesday in the Elite Eight round.
Click here for game notes in PDF Format.
HOW TO CATCH THE CHAMPIONSHIP – Links to live audio/video and live stats are on the women’s basketball schedule page at www.gobuffsgo.com. WT has played one of the Elite Eight teams this year, losing to No. 2-seed California Baptist in the second game of the season at the Division II Tipoff Classic in Orange, Calif., back in November, 76-66.
LADY BUFFS IN THE ELITE EIGHT – WT is 2-2 in the last two Elite Eight trips in 2014 and 2015. The Lady Buffs reached the national championship game in 2014, losing a heartbreaker to Bentley that year, 73-65, after leading for much of the contest and by nine with seven minutes left. This will be the seventh Elite Eight appearance for the Lady Buffs as the team reached the Final Four in 1987 and was national runner-up in 1988. WT returned to the Elite Eight in 1997 and 2009, before the national championship game in 2014 and Elite Eight round in 2015, prior to this season. Overall in the NCAA Tournament, including the regional round, WT is 35-22 (.614). The 35 wins in the NCAA Championship is sixth-most all-time in Division II and fourth-most among active teams.
LOOKING AT THE ELITE EIGHT – Ashland (Ohio) earns the top seed with a 34-0 record, while Cal Baptist is the No. 2-seed with a 34-2 record. Columbus State (Ga.) is the No. 3-seed with a 31-1 record, followed by No. 4-seed Harding (Ark.) with a 30-3 record and Queens (N.Y.) is the No. 5-seed with a 27-4 record. Virginia Union is seeded sixth with a 26-4 record, while West Florida is the No. 7-seed with a 28-6 record and WT is seeded eighth with a 28-6 record. The NCAA changed the Elite Eight format this year, seeding it as the previous years the matchups were set in advance rotating the region winners playing each other.
ELITE EIGHT TICKETS ON SALE – Lady Buff fans, purchase Elite Eight tickets through the link on www.gobuffsgo.com on the women’s basketball schedule page as it will direct fans to Ohio Dominican to purchase.
SHOULD THE LADY BUFFS WIN TUESDAY – WT would then face the No. 4/5 winner between Harding and Queens. WT is 4-0 against Harding with the last win coming in thrilling fashion in the 2014 PAK-A-SAK Lady Buff Thanksgiving Classic in Canyon as WT won 67-65 in a matchup of top eight teams as former Lady Buff Chontiquah White scored a layup with five seconds left. WT and Queens have never met on the hardwood.
RECAPPING THE NCAA REGIONAL – The Lady Buffs were seeded fourth in the NCAA South Central Regional and traveled to top-seeded Colorado State-Pueblo last week where WT battled fifth-seeded Regis (Colo.) in the opener as the Lady Buffs posted a 75-67 victory as WT jumped out to a big lead behind strong shooting, especially from the perimeter by senior Alie Decker. Regis responded in the second half, but the Lady Buffs held on for the win. WT shot a blistering 58.1 percent for the game and drained seven triples, while going 18 of 25 from the line and 14 of 21 in the second half after just four attempts in the first half. Decker led the way with 22 points and four triples leading three Lady Buffs in double figures. WT then faced the top-seeded ThunderWolves in front of a raucous crowd as the Lady Buffs played sound defense, holding CSUP to 27.3 percent shooting on 18 of 66, while WT was 25 of 52 (.481) and senior Sasha Watson led the way with 17 points. It was the second overtime game of the season for WT (2-0) as the Lady Buffs outscored CSUP 10-7 in the extra-session. With the win, WT advanced to its fourth-straight Sweet Sixteen and a rematch with No. 2-seed Angelo State. ASU had won the last two meetings in the series and five of six entering the championship with WT leading the season scoring by a mere three points. The regional championship game was not close from the get go as WT raced out to a 17-0 lead en route to an 86-64 win to claim the region championship for the third time in four years. WT shot 51.7 percent on 30 of 58 and held ASU to 27 of 66 for 40.9 percent. The Lady Buffs had balanced scoring with five players in double figures as junior Sydney Walton scored 16 points and eight rebounds to lead the team and even the season series at 2-2. For the regional, WT shot 52.3 percent from the field on 80 of 153, while going 21 of 41 from beyond the arc (.512) and 50 of 65 from the line (.769). WT averaged 34.0 rebounds per game, but the opponents averaged 35.7, which uncharacteristically was high as the Lady Buffs averaged 28.7 rebounds per game for the season. WT averaged 77 points per game in the regional and allowed 66. Watson paced the team averaging 14.7 points per game, while being named South Central Region Tournament Most Valuable Player honors for the second time as she received the award following the regional in 2015. Watson was 15 of29 from the field and 14 of 22 from the line, while senior Maddison Wild averaged 13.3 points on a team-best 13 of 23 from the field (.565) and a perfect 10 of 10 from the line. Decker led the team with seven triples in the regionals and averaged 11.0 points per game.
DECKER FROM RANGE – West Texas A&M senior Alie Decker has hit 85 triples this season as she leads the LSC and is second all-time in triples made in a single season in WT history. Carlee Howard leads the record book with 93 triples in 2003-04. Decker ranks 46th nationally in triples attempted for second in the LSC (207), 15th in triples made (85), 53rd in triples per game (2.50) and 22nd in 3-point field goal percentage at a .411 clip.
WILD PLAY – Senior post Maddison Wild ranks second in WT history in games played as the Ashland game will tie her with former Lady Buff standout Chontiquah White for the most games played in program history with 129. Current WT senior Sasha Watson is tied for fifth all-time in games played with 126 and will move into fifth by herself this week. With the opportunity to potentially play three games, both Wild and Watson have a chance to be 1-2, respectively, if the Lady Buffs reach the national championship.
ABOUT ASHLAND – The Eagles enter the Elite Eight as the lone undefeated team in the country at 34-0 and ranked No. 1 in both seed and in the polls. AU is one of just three undefeated teams in all levels (men and women) of the NCAA, along with Connecticut and Amherst (Mass.) women’s teams. AU is 18-5 all-time in the NCAA Division II postseason. Head coach Robyn Fralick (65-2) leads the Eagles in her second season. The Eagles have dominated just about everyone they have played this season as the team leads the nation in field goal shooting at a .509 clip and second in scoring at 93.9 points per game. Ashland leads the nation in assists (837), assists per game (24.6) and assist/turnover ratio at a 1.63 clip, while leading the nation in scoring margin at a 31.6 clip. AU is third nationally in steals with 476 thefts and fourth in steals per game at 14.0, while ranking second nationally in 3-oint field goal percentage at a .405 clip. AU is fourth nationally in turnover margin (8.47), while ranking sixth in turnovers forced at 23.56. Individually, Kelsey Peare is second nationally in assist/turnover ratio at a 3.41 clip, while Laina Snyder ranks 12th in field goals made (226) and is 11th in steals with 93 for a 3.00 average, which ranks her 13th. Peare leads the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at a .529 clip, while ranking 26th in triples made (81). AU is balanced from top to bottom as the starting lineup has two of the top six scorers in program history in Snyder (16.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3.0 spg ad Andi Daughtery (15.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg). Peare (11.9 ppg, 3.9 apg), along with Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Jodi Johnson (11.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.5, apg, 2.6, spg) make the Eagles a formidable foe.
INSIDE THE SERIES WITH ASHLAND – The Lady Buffs are 0-1 all-time against Ashland on the hardwood as the teams met in the 2012-13 season-opener at Disney’s Division II Tipoff Classic in Anaheim, Calif. AU won the game 70-48 as the Eagles went on to win the national championship that season with a 37-1 record. The 2013 national championship marked the Eagles’ last trip to the Elite Eight.
AGAINST THE FIELD – WT is 4-2 all-time against the Elite Eight field this year. WT is 4-0 against Harding and 0-1 against Cal Baptist and Ashland. Cal Baptist posted a 76-66 win over WT the second game of the season at the Division II Tipoff Classic in Anaheim, Calif. In that game, poor shooting by the Lady Buffs (.386) and turnovers (19) doomed the team in the game. CBU held a 21-15 lead in points off turnovers and led 34-26 in points in the paint. WT had four players in double figures led by 16 points from Decker with three triples, but CBU’s Cassidy Mihalko went 8 of 13 from the field with three triples for a game-high 21 points leading three Lancers in double figures. CBU went 28 of 62 from the field (.452) with eight triples and just 11 turnovers.
PLAY THE BEST TO BE THE BEST – The Lady Buffs have the hardest strength of schedule in the nation this year in all of Division II women’s basketball. WT’s opponents are 329-206 for a .615 winning percentage to lead the nation. Emporia State is second at a .597 clip. Ashland ranks 40th at a .554 clip with an opponent record of 355-286.
SASHA MOVING UP – Senior Sasha Watson moved over 1,000 career points with a season-high 27 points at Texas Woman’s on Dec. 8. She now has 1,347 career points ranking her 12th all-time in school history. She is seventh all-time in free throws made (360) and fifth in free throws attempted (561) for a .667 clip.
STEALING SASHA – Sasha Watson leads the team with 67 steals on the year and has 222 for her career ranking her seventh all-time in school history in steals. She needs eight thefts to pass Emily Brister (2005-07) for sixth all-time in school history. Watson leads the league with her 67 thefts and is 57th nationally, while ranking second in the league in steals per game at 1.97.
HIGHTOWER RETURNS – WT freshman Lexy Hightower returned for the NCAA Regional and was a welcome return after missing seven games due to an injury. Hightower returned to her form from before the injury as she averaged 8.3 points, going 9 of 14 from the field (.643) with seven triples tying Decker for the team-lead in the regional.
AGAINST RANKED TEAMS – The Lady Buffs are 5-3 against ranked teams this season at the time they played them. WT is 0-1 against Cal Baptist, 1-0 against Florida Southern, 1-0 against Eastern New Mexico, 2-2 against Angelo State and 1-0 against Colorado State-Pueblo.
PARKER OFF THE BENCH – Junior Madison Parker has come off the bench in all 34 games this season, but has made great use of her time on the court. Against Texas Woman’s in the quarterfinal round of the LSC Championship, Parker tallied 14 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing her what would have been her first double-double of the season and second of her career. This season, Parker has eight games in double figures and two double figure rebounding games. She tallied seven rebounds in the regional championship win over Angelo State raising her rebounding average to 5.2 per game.
OVER 50 PERCENT – The Lady Buffs are second nationally in field goal shooting at a .492 clip behind Ashland (Ohio) at .509. This season, the Lady Buffs have shot over 50 percent 17 times and are 17-0 in those games. WT is 877-1783 (.492) from the field this season.
MATTIO WINS 50 – Second year head coach Kristen Mattio won her 50th game at the helm of the Lady Buffs with the thrilling 73-69 win over Tarleton State on Senior Day. Mattio is 54-13 (.806) and is 28-8 (.778) in Lone Star Conference play over the last two years.
WATSON HEADLINES ALL-CONFERENCE SELECTIONS – WT senior Sasha Watson earned her third All-LSC First Team honors this season and was named to the All-Defensive Team for the second year in a row. WT seniors Alie Decker and Maddison Wild earned third team honors, while senior Lilley Vander Zee also was named to the all-defensive team.
FROM DEEP – The Lady Buffs lead the LSC in 3-point field goal percentage at a .380 clip as the team is 198 of 521 from beyond the arc this season ranking seventh nationally in 3-point field goal percentage. WT is fourth in the LSC in triples made (198) and fifth in 3-point field goals per game at 5.8.
BLOCK PARTY – The Lady Buffs have recorded at least one block in every game this season with a season-high eight rejections coming against St. Edward’s (11/18) and recording eight again on Feb. 23 against Texas A&M-Commerce. WT has recorded two or more blocks in 20 of the last 21 games and has two or more blocks in 30 games. WT has 129 blocks on the season, which ranks second in the league and 29th nationally. WT is averaging 3.8 blocks per game, which is fourth in the league and 63rd nationally. Senior Lilley Vander Zee is second in the LSC in blocks with 46 (57th nationally) and third in blocked shots per game at 1.39 for 86th nationally.
CLEANING THE GLASS – WT is outrebounding the opposition this season by a 7.4 margin, which is 19th nationally and leads the LSC. WT is fourth in the LSC in rebounds with 1,246 and 47th nationally. Defensively, WT is holding teams to just 29.3 rebounds per game, which leads the LSC as the opposition has 996 rebounds for the year. Senior Maddison Wild leads the team in rebounding at 5.9 per game with 200 rebounds, ranking seventh in the LSC.
KEEPING A LID ON THE BUCKET – The Lady Buffs rank first in the LSC in scoring margin at 13.4, which is 21st nationally and lead the LSC in points allowed per game at 58.6, which is 31st nationally for scoring defense. Teams are shooting .372 against WT this season ranking 55th nationally and third in the league.
IN THE POLLS – The Lady Buffs are not ranked or receiving votes in the latest WBCA Coaches Poll for the tenth-straight week and the first time since the 2012-13 season. WT fell out of the D2SIDA Top 25 as it was receiving votes in the Jan. 3 poll and fell out of the D2SIDA South Central Region rankings for the first time in the three-year history of the poll. WT earned the No. 4-seed in the South Central Regional and returned to the D2SIDA poll last week as others receiving votes and is there again this week.
WITH THE ASSIST – This season WT ranks 11th nationally in assists with 532 to lead the LSC. WT leads the league in assists per game at a 15.6 clip, which is 27th nationally. Senior Sasha Watson leads the LSC in assists with 155 and ranks 25th nationally. She also has the league’s top assist per game average at a 4.6 clip, which is 51st nationally. She has 474 career assists, ranking fourth all-time in career assists.
STRONG AGAINST THE LSC – The Lady Buffs are 64-10 since Feb. 9, 2013, in Lone Star Conference regular season play and have an overall mark of 77-13 overall including both LSC and NCAA playoffs during that span. WT is 36-2 at home (31-2 regular season), 29-8 on the road (regular season) and 11-3 in neutral sites (LSC playoffs). WT is 365-73 all-time in LSC regular season play.
WINNING TRADITION – The Feb. 16 win at Texas A&M-Kingsville marked the fifth-straight year of 20 or more wins for the Lady Buffs. WT has won 30 or more games in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and have 30 wins in six seasons since 1980-81. The Lady Buffs have not had a losing season since 1980-81 and have won 20 or more games in 28 seasons during that span with a string of nine-straight from 1983-1992. Since the 2012-13 season, WT is 136-31 (.818) with four NCAA postseason appearances, a national runner-up finish (2014), three Elite Eight trips (2014, 2015, 2017), a NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance (2016). In the LSC the Lady Buffs have been just as successful with three Lone Star Conference regular season titles (2014-2016), two Lone Star Conference tournament championships (2014, 2015) and four-straight trips to the LSC championship game.
LADY BUFFS SIGN THREE – WT announced the signing of three for the 2017-18 season during the early signing period in November as Daria Cosgrove (Plano, Texas), Abby Spurgin (Fredricksburg, Texas) and Zada Swoopes (Whitewright, Texas) all inked with the Lady Buffs.