ICYMI: Mercer follows up ranking with first NCAA bid
NEW YORK (AP) — It was a pretty good week for Mercer.
The women’s basketball team started it with the school’s first appearance in the Top 25 in 38 years and finished it off with a Southern Conference title and the team’s first Division I NCAA Tournament bid.
“This is exactly where we wanted to be a year ago today. I know when I walked into this building when we had shooting practice Wednesday, I kind of remembered all the emotions — all the awful emotions. ... Our loss last year is the reason this year was so incredible,” Mercer coach Susie Gardner said.
The Bears have won a program-record 27 straight games and tied the conference mark with 27 victories in a row.
Mercer is one of seven teams to receive NCAA Tournament bids.
For the most part, the favorites won the conference tournaments with Louisville, Ohio State, Belmont and Oregon also winning.
South Carolina ended Mississippi State’s perfect season with a victory in the SEC title game, winning the conference tournament for a fourth consecutive season.
“It’s a blessing and an honor,” said South Carolina senior star A’ja Wilson with a net around her neck. “The SEC is a great conference and to make history like that, to be a team that’s gone four times in a row to the championship and won it, it’s a great feeling. I really can’t even put into words the feeling I know I have ... So this has been a great tournament.”
The biggest upset though came in the Atlantic 10 with fifth-seeded George Washington beating sixth-seeded Saint Joseph’s in the title game. Coach Jen Rizzotti’s squad, which knocked off top-seed Dayton in the semifinals, was led by point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista, who had 26 assists in the three games without turning the ball over once.
SIDELINED STAR: Baylor lost starting senior point guard Kristy Wallace to a torn ACL in her right knee. Wallace was injured last Monday in the Lady Bears’ regular-season finale victory over West Virginia. Wallace averaged 12.9 points and led the Lady Bears with 155 assists. She led the team in minutes, averaging just over 30 a game.
POLL WATCH: With Mississippi State’s first loss of the season, the Bulldogs might drop a spot or two in the poll. Mercer, which only had 25 points last week in earning the No. 25 spot, should be on more solid footing in the rankings this week.
WHAT’S ON TAP: While most of the top conferences finished their tournaments this week, the Big 12 title game is Monday night between No. 3 Baylor and No. 7 Texas. Many of the non-power 5 conferences also play their tournaments in the upcoming days.
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