Cardinal Too Much

One of the best seasons in Western Michigan women's basketball history came to an end Saturday night, as the Broncos fell to No. 9 Stanford 82-66 in Palo Alto, California in the opening round of the 2003 NCAA basketball tournament.

WMU, which was seeded 14th in the West regional bracket and was making only its second appearance in the tournament, finishes its season at 20-12. The third-seeded Cardinal (27-4) will play Minnesota Monday night in the second round.

The Broncos did come out strong in a game that did not start until about 12:30 a.m. Eastern time. Maria Jilian came down and made a layup on WMU's first possession to give Western Michigan a 2-0 lead. The game would go back and forth for most of the first half. WMU would lead 14-11 with 13:14 remaining in the opening half, but a Cardinal 14-1 run gave Stanford a 10 point lead with 7:30 remaining in the half. WMU stayed with striking distance, however, and would go to locker room trailing 45-38. The Broncos shot a solid 48.0 percent from the floor (12-25), but their total was overshadowed by the Cardinal's red-hot mark of 64.3 percent (18-28).

Stanford came out focused in the second half, while the Broncos struggled to find their shot. Western Michigan missed its first eight attempts from the floor in the half, allowing the Cardinal to score the first 10 points of the half. That margin would prove to be too much for the Broncos to overcome. WMU would get the lead down to 13 on a few occasions, but got no closer.

The Cardinal shooting proved to be the big difference in the game. They finished the night connecting on 60.8 percent of their attempts (31-51). Stanford also went 9-17 from beyond the 3-point line. Western Michigan shot just 33.3 percent in the second half, finishing the night at 39.7 percent (23-58).

Jilian finished the night with a team-high 16 points. She also created a pair of steals, giving her a final season total of 123. That mark ties her for the Mid-American Conference single-season steals record. Casey Rost finished the night with 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Kelly Koerber played another solid game off the bench, finishing with 12 points and four rebounds. Playing in her final game as a Bronco, Curleta Harris scored 13 points and dished out a team-high five assists. First-team All-MAC honoree Kristin Koetsier, who had battled flu-like symptoms all week, finished with two points in 23 minutes.

National Player of the Year candidate Nicole Powell proved to be a force for the Cardinal. She finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, all of which were game highs.

The Broncos will lose only one player (Harris) off the 2003 MAC Tournament Championship team.

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