Women's Hoops Heads To Minnesota For NCAA's

For the first time since 2000, UCLA's women are in the NCAA Tournament, visiting Minnesota for first round action in the Mideast Region

The NCAA Women's Tournament has provided some bittersweet moments for UCLA.

The 1999 was their most memorable run, winning the Pac-10 that year and advancing to the Elite 8 in Los Angeles, before dropping an 88-62 decision to Louisiana Tech, without injured guard Erika Gomez.

On the other hand, 2000 was a disappointment, when an injury-ravaged team lost to George Washington in the tournament.

But nothing topped the bitterness of the 1998 campaign, when the 7th seeded Bruins had all but sewn up a 74-73 win over #2 seed Alabama, when a controversial decision by the officials allowed a Crimson Tide basket with no time left to knock off the Bruins 75-74. The loss prevented the Bruins from advancing to the Sweet 16.

Yet, no player on this years squad has been a part of an NCAA Tournament, so it's a new dawn in Westwood.

The Bruins (17-12), seeded #10, visit the 7th seeded Golden Gophers (21-8) on Sunday, March 21st at a game scheduled for approximately 11:30 a.m. on ESPN.

It's a game of contrasting styles, with the Bruins featuring a faster-paced system, while Minnesota is more methodical in their play.

Leading the Golden Gophers is Lindsey Whalen, who missed the last seven games of the season after breaking two metacarpal bones in her right hand. In her absence, the Gophers went 3-4, after beginning the year 15-0. Whalen is expected back for the NCAA Tournament and her return will easily bolster the Gophers chances in the tournament. Whalen is averaging 20.7 points and 5.1 rebounds. She scored a season-high 32 points against Michigan.

In addition the Whalen, the Gophers have a double-digit rebounder in Janel McCarville, who had a team best 10.1 boards to go along with 15.6 points.

UCLA is led by one of the top backcourts in the West, as well as one of the youngest. A pair of seniors start in the front court in Whitney Jones (6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds) and Jamila Veasley (1.8 points, 3.1 rebounds), the Bruins start and finish with their talented trio of youngsters.

Led by 2004 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Noelle Quinn and All Pac-10 selection Nikki Blue, the Bruins had two of the top ten scorers in the conference. Toss in sophomore Lisa Willis and the Bruins had three in the top ten.

Quinn led UCLA in scoring with an average of 16 points and 7 boards, finishing 5th in the Pac-10 in scoring, including a career best 31 points against Arizona. Blue added 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds, with a season best of 26 in their comeback win over USC. Willis chipped in 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds, including her season best of 31 against California.

Kathy Olivier makes her fourth visit to the NCAA Tournament, where she has a career record of 4-3.

The Bruins played a quartet of Big Ten schools this year, while the Gophers played one Pac-10 opponent. The two had five common opponents, both playing Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan State and USC. The Gophers were 2-5 against those five, while the Bruins were 3-3 against that group including a win over Ohio State, who swept the Gophers.

UCLA is precocious enough to hang with the Gophers, and take this game. They battled against some of the better teams in the country this year, nearly knocking off Stanford twice, and beating Arizona, in addition to Ohio State, who swept the Gophers. With the return of Whalen and playing at home, the Gophers would seem to have the advantage, but the 10-7 game always seems to be an upset in the making, so will call it here too.

UCLA 72
Minnesota 68


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