WBB Preview: Georgia State
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
WILMINGTON, North Carolina - Fifth-seeded UNCW opens the 2012 Virginia 529 CAA Women's Basketball Championship Thursday with a first-round contest against No. 12 seed Georgia State.
Thursday's contest begins UNCW's 28th appearance in the CAA Women's Basketball Championship. The Seahawks have posted a 13-27 record in its 27 previous appearances. UNCW has never won the championship, but has advanced to the finals twice (2000, 2002) and made a total of seven appearances in the semifinals, including a trip in 2011.
"March is an exciting time of year in the world of college basketball," said UNCW Head Coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. "The girls have worked hard all year to get to this point and the conference tournament is where a team can truly be rewarded for the effort they have put in since the start of the season. We need to play smart, confident and with a purpose in order to give ourselves a chance to win what will be a very tough tournament."
The Seahawks and Panthers will meet for the second time in eight days as UNCW knocked off Georgia State, 64-54, in the regular season finale for both teams on Feb. 29 at Trask Coliseum.
Sophomore guard Alisha Andrews, who poured in a game-high 22 points in the regular-season finale against the Panthers, finished the regular season as the team's leader in scoring (12.3), assists (4.8) and steals (2.7) while also ranking among the top 50 players nationally in assists (46th) and steals (39th) per game.
Junior Karneshia Garrett enters the tournament playing some of her best basketball of the season as she ended the regular season with a double-double in three of the final four games, including an 18-point, 10-rebound effort in the regular-season finale. Garrett's strong finish helped her maintain her spot atop the team's rebounding charts (7.4) while moving her into sole possession of second place on the squad's scoring list (10.0).
Junior-college transfer Tawanna Lee capped her first regular season in the Navy, Teal and Gold third in scoring (9.7) and second in assists (3.6) while sophomore Abria Trice emerged during the second half of the campaign to lead the team in scoring (10.7) during conference play while also contributing 4.3 rebounds per game.
For Georgia State, sophomore Kendra Long leads the team in scoring with a 10.8 scoring average while also pacing a Panthers squad that leads the CAA in steals with 46 thefts.
Senior Chan Harris, the lone fourth-year player on the squad, averages 10.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game and is second in school history with 134 career blocked shots to highlight a Panthers lineup that ranks 24th in the nation in blocked shots per game (5.1).
Junior point guard Jerlisa Taylor leads the team with 91 assists and enters the tournament on a hot streak in the scoring department, having averaged 11.7 points per game during the final three games of the regular season.
"Georgia State is a talented team that gave us all we could handle in our two regular-season contests against them this season," said Cooper-Dyke. "They are a team that likes to be aggressive and will try to dictate tempo, which we must not allow them to do. Being able to score in transition is key for both teams, so the team that is able to have the most success in that area will put themselves in good position to win the game."
Thursday's contest marks the 16th meeting between Georgia State and UNCW and the first in post-season play. The Seahawks hold a slim 8-7 advantage in the all-time series as they have won three straight versus the Panthers, including a sweep of the season series.
The winner of Thursday's first-round contest will face No. 4 seed Hofstra in quarterfinal round action Friday at 2:30 p.m.