Regional Championship Game Preview
Monday, Mar. 18, 7 p.m.
Wayne State (22-8) at Ashland (33-1)
The Championship Scenario
The Ashland University Eagles, ranked second in the nation, are one step away from a second consecutive trip to the Elite Eight. Standing in their path is the sixth seed in this tournament, the Wayne State Warriors.
The Eagles bring a nine-game winning streak into the regional championship. AU has played its last five games at Kates Gymnasium where it is 19-0 this season. Ashland has a 42-game home winning streak. Since the start of last season, the Eagles are 66-3. If the Eagles win on Monday night, they will establish a school, single season record for wins.
Wayne State has won four of its last five games. The loss in that stretch came to Findlay, 67-60 in the semifinals of the GLIAC Tournament.
The Warriors are from Detroit, which is a hotbed of hockey. In this instance, however, power play refers to strength inside.
In the two NCAA regional games this weekend, the Eagles have out-rebounded the opposition, 83-51 and lead in points in the paint, 58-22.
The Warriors figure to offer a bigger presence inside than AU's first two foes – Indianapolis and Michigan Tech. In their win over Wisconsin-Parkside in the semifinals, the Warriors led in points in the paint, 38-22. In the two regional games, WSU's 6-0 center Juanita Cochran has averaged 20.0 ppg., 15.5 rpg., and shot 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from the floor. She has blocked nine shots in the two games (4.5 bpg.).
During the regular season, WSU led the GLIAC in rebounds per game and rebound margin. Entering Saturday's game, the Warriors were averaging 47.7 rpg., and were +11.8 on the boards. Cochran was averaging 11.2 ppg., 9.3 rpg., and shooting 51.4 percent from the field. She was named to the All-GLIAC Second Team last weekend.
Entering Saturday night's game, AU was +11.3 in rebound margin.
Prime Numbers in Prime Time
Over the last two games, much has been said about AU senior guard-forward Kari Daugherty's (Fresno, Ohio/Dayton) ability to thrive in the postseason. That's not just a figment of the imagination.
In eight career NCAA postseason games at Ashland, Daugherty has averaged 26.4 ppg., and 15.0 rpg. She has never failed to record a double-double. She has three, 30-point games and two 20-rebound games. Her playoff high in points came on Saturday against Michigan Tech – 32. Her high in rebounds came against Bentley in last year's Elite Eight – 22.
Deep In The Woods
Sophomore guard Taylor Woods (Wadsworth, Ohio) missed all of the postseason last season due to an injury. If she has any playoff jitters, she's done a fine job of hiding them.
In the two regional games, Woods has connected on 5-of-10 three-point attempts (50 percent). She narrowly missed a double-double against Indianapolis when she had 10 points and nine rebounds. In the GLIAC championship game against Findlay, she had 11 points and 10 assists.
The Sixth Man
All five AU starters on Saturday night logged 34 or more minutes. Those totals were matched by the Ashland fans, who were loud and on their feet for most of the game. The AU-Michigan Tech game drew 2,347 fans. The AU-Indianapolis game attracted 2,133 fans.
Last year's regional championship game between Wisconsin-Parkside and Ashland drew 2,644 fans. That's the largest home crowd in AU women's basketball history. In the last three home NCAA playoff games, AU has averaged 2,374 fans.
One of the sidelights to the regional tournaments around the country are the battles between leagues. Monday night's matchup pits a pair of GLIAC schools in Ashland and Wayne State. A year ago, the regional game featured Ashland (GLIAC) and Wisconsin-Parkside (GLVC). In 2011, Michigan Tech defeated Wisconsin-Parkside, 69-57 to advance to the Elite Eight. A GLIAC team (Ashland and Michigan Tech) has played in the last two national championship games.
Title Game History
This is the first time Wayne State has reached the regional championship game. This is the second time the Eagles have reached the Sweet 16.
This is Wayne State's second trip to the NCAA playoffs. The last time the Warriors went to the postseason was in 2003 when they were the eighth seed. Wayne State lost to Indianapolis in the first round that year.
Ashland and Wayne State have played once this season. That came in Detroit on Dec. 5 and the Eagles won, 77-58. The Warriors were without Cochran and AU ran up a 54-36 edge on the glass. Ashland led in points in the paint, 44-28. The Eagles brought down 21 offensive rebounds.
Daugherty had 29 points and 18 rebounds. Gerbec had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Forward Phaebre Colbert had 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead WSU. Talisha Bridges had 13 points. Bridges is WSU's lone All-GLIAC First Team selection.
AU has won four of the last five meetings with the Warriors. In 2011-12, the Eagles won in Detroit, 112-75 and at Kates Gymnasium, 74-66. Wayne State's last victory over the Eagles came on Dec. 4, 2010, at WSU, 77-75.
In the last three games against Wayne State, the Eagles have forced 44 turnovers (14.7 turnovers per game).
Around the Country
Here are the other regional championship game matchups.
Atlantic Region - Gannon vs. California (Pa.)
South Central Region - Colorado Mesa vs. Midwestern State
East Region - Bentley vs. Dowling
Central Region - Emporia State vs. Augustana (S.D.)
Southeast Region - Clayton State vs. Limestone
South Region - Nova Southeastern vs. Delta State
West Region – TBA
The only game between a one and two seed is in the South Central Region. Colorado Mesa is the top seed and Midwestern State is the second seed.
The only eight seed still alive is Emporia State in the Central Region.
The AU-Wayne State winner will play the Gannon-California winner in the national quarterfinals. Gannon is the top seed in the Atlantic Region. Cal is the seventh seed.