Courtesy NSU Athletics:
Co-head coaches Brooke and Scott Stoehr and the 16th-seededNorthwestern State women's basketball team will rely on experience againstnational powers Baylor and Texas to help when the Lady Demons take onNo. 1-seed Tennessee on its own floor at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday at 3o'clock CDT in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Fans in north Louisiana will see the entire game on ESPN 2 oncable systems. Satellite subscribers can watch ESPN2 or game-specificcoverage on DirecTV channel 720, Dish Network 145 and Dish FullCourt 456. TheDemon Sports Network will broadcast the game on 100.7 KZBL FM in Natchitoches,92.1 KSYR FM in Shreveport and free streaming on NSUDemons.com.
NSU (21-12) surged to the Southland Conference Tournamentchampionship last week as the fourth seed after upsetting the top two seeds inthat tournament. The Lady Volunteers (27-5) won the Southeastern ConferenceTournament championship as the second seed.
Tennessee's big front line, and NSU's relatively small frontcourt,pose the most obvious challenge for the Lady Demons.
"I think it's extremely difficult to simulate their size andathleticism during practice, especially from our roster. I don't thinkyou can simulate that fully until you get in live-game situation and face themon the court," said Brooke Stoehr, who along with her husband Scott haveled NSU to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 seasons.
"One thing that we continue to go back to is we've played atBaylor, we've played at Texas. This is not going to be the first timethis young team has seen size of that magnitude," she said. "We've had to do some things, adjust offensively from what we've done overthe last few weeks against teams in our league."
Northwestern State, who will play in its third NCAA Tournament andseventh postseason tournament, kept pace with Baylor throughout the firsthalf. It was down by five with 2:15 to play in the opening frame, andtrailed by eight at halftime.
The Lady Demons held a seven-point lead with 12:59 to play in thefirst half against Texas, and held an advantage until there was 10:52 to playin the first half. The Longhorns used a 37-11 run to blow open the game byhalftime.
"It's not the first time we've faced a team of thissize," said Stoehr. "Texas' front line is actually bigger thanTennessee's. The thing about (the Lady Vols) is they're playing so hardright now and our kids will be ready for that."
"I just feel like we need to approach it the same way we didour conference tournament and with the same confidence, determination andfocus," said NSU's leading scorer and rebounder, Southland ConferenceTournament Most Valuable Player Trudy Armstead.
Armstead, a 6-1 senior forward who was just third-teamAll-Southland Conference, averages 14.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
"Just going into a game like this, it's just like any othergame. We compete the same way, we play together and we don't lose sightof what we have to do in order to be successful," said NorthwesternState's 5-2 point guard Janelle Perez, an all-tournament pick last weekend.
Perez averages 10.1 points and 4.2 assists per game. She wassecond in the Southland Conference with a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Sophomore guard Keisha Lee follows Armstead in scoring with13.6 points per game, and leads NSU with 1.5 steals per game. FreshmanKourtney Pennywell is second in rebounding with 5.4 boards per game followed byChelsea Rogers with five per contest.
Northwestern State averages 64.2 and allows 61.8 points per gamethis season. It shoots at a 42.4 percent clip from the field and 32.3from 3-point range.
Meighan Simmons' 16.2 points per game average leads UT, and is followedby Isabelle Harrison (13.9) and Ariel Massingale (12.5). Massingale islikely out due to injuries.
The Lady Vols average 78.9 points per contest and allow63.5. They shoot 46.2 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-pointrange.
It is the first matchup between the two programs, but not thefirst matchup against UT or in Thompson-Boling Arena for Brooke(Lassiter) Stoehr. She faced Tennessee four times while at LouisianaTech, and helped beat the Lady Vols 69-64 in Knoxville in 1999.
I said, 'well guys, I can tell you I've won here before'. Ithink we ended their 41-game home-game win streak my sophomore year," saidStoehr. "It's one of the better memories in my college career.
"Anytime you come in as a No. 16 seed, obviously, you'reextremely proud and honored to be a part of the field of 64. You also seewhere you get sent and what can this experience means for our players and ourprogram moving forward," she said. "Scott and I were thrilled to cometo Knoxville. They have a first class atmosphere. They've done itfor 33 years, and they know what they're doing around here."
The winner of the game will take on the winner of St. John's andSouthern California in the Round of 32. That game starts 30 minutes afterthe UT and NSU contest.