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WSU women will open NCAA Tournament at Penn State

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Monday, March 17, 2014, at 8:45 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 18, 2014, at 9:27 a.m.

Wichita State women vs. No. 14 Penn State

When: 11:35 a.m. Sunday

Where: Jordan Center, University Park, Pa.

Records: WSU 26-6, PSU 22-7

TV: ESPN2

Three things about Penn State

1. Penn State claimed its third consecutive Big Ten championship this season. Penn State won the regular season title, but lost its first game in the conference tournament by 17 to unranked Ohio State.

2. The Nittany Lions feature one of the nation’s best scorers in 5-foot-10 senior guard Maggie Lucas, the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year who averages 21.4 points, shoots a remarkable 95 percent from the free-throw line.

3. The Shockers have a link to Penn State in assistant coach Dana Eikenberg, who started four years at point guard on the Nittany Lions’ basketball team from 1988-92.

With their seed revealed and their opponent and destination locked in on Monday evening, the Wichita State women’s basketball team was ready to dance.

When their name was broadcast on ESPN, Pharrell’s popular song “Happy” was played over the speakers at the Champions Club inside Koch Arena and the Shockers showed off their dance moves to the gathering of WSU fans.

The players and coach Jody Adams had a routine choreographed with the music, as they danced their way jubilantly around the room.

There has been a lot to be happy about the last two weeks: Wichita State claimed a share of its second straight regular-season Missouri Valley championship, then won the MVC tournament for the second straight year to earn a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Wichita State, the No. 14 seed in the Stanford Regional, is is ready to travel to University Park, Pa., to face No. 3 seed Penn State, the Big Ten regular-season champion. But it is not satisfied.

“There’s an expectation of winning that game,” Adams said.

The Shockers aren’t a typical No. 14 seed. They received their first taste of a major program in last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the Shockers were a No. 14 seed and lost 71-45 to Texas A&M.

Penn State may not be as tall as that Texas A&M squad, but it will be every bit as talented. The Shockers say they won’t be intimidated.

“Especially now that we’ve got our defense back on track,” senior Michelle Price said. “I think we can be that upset that nobody sees coming.”

Wichita State also believes its talent exceeds that of a trypical 14 seed. This is a team that won 20 straight games and was nationally ranked. And after WSU returned to form at the Valley tournament, it’s convinced it’s improved.

“I have to grin at that one,” Adams said. “We’ll see. It’s up to us to go prove that and go play great basketball.”

“We’re just so together right now,” sophomore Michaela Dapprich said. “We’re out there reading each other. We know exactly what we’re going to do on the court. We’re closer than we’ve ever been.”

The players understand no one will be picking them, and they know and respect the tradition of Penn State. But they’ve been raised in a program that fears no one.

This team became the one to make the NCAA Tournament an annual tradition for WSU. Now they want to become the one that sets the precedent of winning in the NCAA Tournament.

“We know we can do it,” junior Alex Harden said. “Now we have to get to work and figure out the way to do it.”

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