Marist Enters Uncharted Territory
Red Foxes are first MAAC team to ever win an NCAA tournament game
March 23, 2007
A pair of improbable wins have put Marist into uncharted territory in just its third NCAA tournament appearance.
For the Red Foxes to continue their run, though, they'll have to pull off an even bigger upset against top-seeded Tennessee when the teams meet Sunday in the regional semifinals at Dayton, Ohio.
This is the first trip to the round of 16 for 13th-seeded Marist (29-5), which lost in the first round of the tournament in 2004 and 2006. The Red Foxes' surprise showing has earned the respect of one of the NCAA's most decorated women's coaches.
"Coach (Brian) Giorgis has done a great job of preparing them," said Tennessee's Pat Summitt, who is taking the Lady Vols to their 26th consecutive round of 16 appearance. "Their composure, I'm so impressed wit that. ... They kept their focus and played together. Certainly to be a 13 seed and be in the Sweet 16 speaks in a tremendous way for what this team not only has done but can do."
Marist faces the Volunteers (30-3) after becoming the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team to win an NCAA tournament game with a 67-63 victory over No. 4 seed Ohio State in the opening round. Two days later, the Red Foxes beat fifth-seeded Middle Tennessee State 73-59, ending the Blue Raiders' 27-game win streak.
Nikki Flores had 21 points and Julianne Viani and Meg Dahlman added 13 apiece in Marist's eighth straight win. Leading scorer Rachele Fitz had 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
"The attention the school has received has been unbelievable," Giorgis said. "You can't turn around without a voicemail, text message, e-mail waiting for you. People stopping you on the street to offer their congratulations."
Giorgis' team faces a tough task, however. Tennessee has never lost in the tournament to a seed lower than four and has won 21 of its last 25 trips to the round of 16.
"Even if we lose, we've had a great run," Marist starting guard Alisa Kresge said. "Something that we will always remember."
For the Volunteers, just getting to this point isn't enough. They lost in the regional finals last year and haven't won a national championship since 1998.
"I think they are a very focused team. There's no doubt in my mind where they want to be. They want to be (in the Final Four) in Cleveland," Summitt said.
The Lady Vols routed Drake 76-37 in their tournament opener and defeated Pittsburgh 68-54 in the second round on Tuesday behind Candace Parker's 30 points and 12 rebounds.
Parker was limited to just four points in a 63-54 loss to LSU in the SEC tournament on March 3 and was held to 13 against Drake before shooting 13-for-16 from the field Tuesday.
"With the play of Candace, that has been tremendous from last year to this year to see Parker develop her skills, composure and toughness," Summitt said. "She is much more aggressive on the offensive end."
Marist is just the third 13th seed to advance to the round of 16 since the tournament field was expanded to 64, joining Texas A&M in 1994 and Liberty in 2005.
The winner of this game will face No. 3 seed Oklahoma or seventh-seeded Mississippi on Tuesday.