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Indiana women miss NCAA tourney

Monday, March 16, 2009

By CLIFF BRUNT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana's winning conference record and upgraded non-conference schedule weren't enough to get the Hoosiers a bid to the NCAA women's tournament.

The Hoosiers (19-10) lost to Purdue in the Big Ten tournament, but coach Felisha Legette-Jack said she felt the team had done enough to gain an at-large berth.

"It is what it is," she said. "I told our kids not to get too disappointed or say too many bad things because I feel like we've got to go on and move forward."

Four Indiana teams received bids -- Purdue, Evansville, Notre Dame and Ball State. Notre Dame and Purdue expected at-large bids, and Evansville and Ball State won their conference tournaments. That left Indiana as the only team to get a surprise.

"I'm disappointed, the kids are disappointed," Legette-Jack said. "I think they judged us really on two things, and those were the losses to Illinois."

Then, she thought of a third thing.

"We don't have the tradition of other schools," she said. "I guess you have to go through this because once we do get there, there will be a big reason to have a celebration."

Legette-Jack said she became worried when Iowa was listed as a No. 9 seed. Iowa tied for second place in the conference and finished two games ahead of Indiana.

The team with the most tournament victories will play the team with the fewest when Tennessee (22-10) plays Mid-American tournament champion Ball State (25-8) Sunday in Bowling Green, Ky.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has the most tournament wins of any women's coach. Ball State coach Kelly Packard is in her first year as a collegiate head coach, at a program that hasn't even played a tournament game.

"I don't think there's another women's coach that's more recognized than Pat Summitt," Packard said. "She's very passionate about coaching, and I respect that about her."

She'll try not to let her team get caught up in the Tennessee mystique.

"The biggest thing is that we've got to go about doing what we've done all year," she said. "Playing with passion, representing ourselves well, playing with character and playing for one another."

Packard looks forward to the exposure that playing Tennessee likely will bring her program.

"There's some pride in seeing your university's name recognized within your own state," she said. "Now, it's going to be recognized outside our state."

Purdue (22-10) will play Charlotte (23-8) Sunday in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Boilermakers have been solid since point guard FahKara Malone has recovered from a dislocated ring finger on her right hand. With Malone, Purdue was a basket away from winning a third consecutive Big Ten tournament title.

"That was really the key," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "To be able to have her back is important. She's a leader, a communicator, and she knows exactly what to run."

The Boilermakers feature forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, but fellow senior post Danielle Campbell could be equally important for the fifth-seeded Boilermakers.

"Everybody pays so much attention to Lindsay, double-teaming and triple-teaming her, that we need for Danielle to be able to score down low one on one and to hit that 15 footer to take pressure off," Versyp said.

No. 23 Notre Dame (22-8) earned its 14th straight tournament berth. The Irish are the seventh seed and will host 10th-seed Minnesota (19-11) on Sunday.

Coach Muffet McGraw said she was hoping for a fifth seed but said she knows the NCAA moves around teams that are hosting games.

"We're just happy to be in," she said. "Seeds really don't matter."

The Irish are 6-1 all-time at home in NCAA tournament games. The one loss was in 1994 against Minnesota when the Gophers were the 10th seed and the Irish were the seventh seed. Back then, McGraw was just starting to establish the program.

"We're in a little better place right now than we were then. That was a long time ago," she said.

McGraw also said she hopes Irish fans will come out to see Evansville because Irish guard Natalie Novosel's sister Shannon is on the team.

Evansville (15-18), the Missouri Valley Conference tournament champion, will play No. 2 seed Texas A&M (25-7) in South Bend on Sunday.

Evansville became the seventh team with a losing record to make the field with its last-second upset victory over Creighton in the Missouri Valley title game Sunday. Evansville coach Misty Murphy looks forward to playing such a highly regarded team.

"I'm excited about that matchup," she said. "Obviously, Texas A&M is extremely talented and well-coached. We're excited to have the chance to keep dancing."

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Associated Press sports writer Tom Coyne in South Bend contributed to this report.



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