MAC Women's Basketball Notebook -- February 26

Updated 12/2/1978
TOLEDO WRAPS UP TOP SEED:
Toledo has won its last 12 games and on Saturday solidified the top seed in the 2001 Kraft MAC Womens tournament, though the Rockets still have one game remaining. It marks the fifth time that the Rockets have earned the No. 1 seed, and the first time since 1999.

The Rockets (14-1) posted wins last week over Akron and Eastern Michigan, and have clinched a share of the MAC regular season crown, the team's first MAC title since the 1998-99 season. A win over Buffalo on Wednesday would give UT its first outright conference regular season crown since the 1996-97 season.

MORE ON TOLEDO'S STREAK:
Toledo's 12-game winning streak is currently tied for the ninth longest active streak in Division I. Pennsylvania has the longest active streak at 18 games, while the Rockets are tied with Siena and Utah. UT's 21 wins this season marks the 12th time in school history that the Rockets have reached the 20-win plateau, and it is also the fifth time under the direction of head coach Mark Ehlen. In this week's Associated Press' Top-25 poll, the Rockets are ranked 30th with 21 points.

PLENTY AT STAKE IN FINAL GAMES:
There are still plenty of questions to be answered in the final two days of the regular season. What has been decided is that Toledo is the top seed and Kent State is second and Central Michigan is the No. 13 seed. Ball State, which has finished its regular season at 11-5 in MAC play, is currently the No. 3 seed but that can all change should Buffalo defeat Toledo -- UB defeated BSU earlier in the year. The Bulls would then get the bye and the No. 3 seed after winning the tiebreaker with the Cardinals.

Also up in the air is one final homecourt berth for Saturday's first round. Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Miami and Buffalo/Ball State have clinched home games to date, with the No. 8 seed yet to be determined.

If Bowling Green wins against Miami or a Western Michigan loss to Eastern Michigan will give the Falcons the final home slot. Should WMU defeat the Eagles and the Falcons lose, then the Broncos will earn the last home spot based on head-to-head winning percentage. The same would hold true if WMU and BGSU were tied with Ohio at 6-10 for eighth, with the Broncos hosting based on head-to-head winning percentage between the three.

UPCOMING MAC TELECONFERENCE:
The Mid-American Conference will be hosting its second of two women's basketball conference calls on Thursday, March 1, beginning at 10 a.m. (ET). Each of the 13 head coaches will appear on the call and it will serve as a preview to the 20th MAC Womens Basketball Tournament. Media members may listen by calling (913) 981-5545. For a schedule of when coaches will appear on the call, please contact the MAC Media Relations office.

TRIO NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT:
Three MAC women's basketball players were named to their respective Verizon Academic All-District teams last Thursday, Feb. 22, one captured first-team honors and two garnered second-team accolades. Buffalo's Mari McClure was on the District I first-team, while Kent State's Julie Studer and Bowling Green's Angie Farmer were placed on the second team.

McClure, who now advances to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors, has a 3.59 GPA majoring in psychology and legal studies. Studer has a 3.56 average in physical education and Farmer has a 3.78 GPA in education. The Verizon Academic All-America team will be announced on Mar. 15.

MERCHANT MAKING THINGS HAPPEN:
In her three seasons at the helm of the Eastern Michigan program, Suzy Merchant has led the Eagles to three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since joining the MAC and just the second time in school history. The Eagles have also secured their third straight .500 or better season in the conference, the first time that has happened, and Merchant has recorded her sixth consecutive winning season in as many years as a college head coach.

This season's team, with the win over Bowling Green, Feb. 21, tied the school record for season victories (16) and MAC victories (9). Currently, Merchant is tied for second on EMU's coaching career wins chart with 46. Combined with her wins as head coach at Saginaw Valley State, Merchant nabbed her 100th career coaching win with the victory over the Falcons last weekend.

THE GALLERT 400:
Western Michigan junior Brooke Gallert heads into the regular season finale and postseason just 10 assists shy of becoming only the fourth player in program history to total 400 helpers in their career. Twin sister Brianne isn't far behind with 379 career assists. Brooke and Brianne rank No. 4 and 5, respectively, on the Bronco career assists chart. Both Gallerts are averaging 4.8 apg for their careers. Brianne handed out seven Saturday while Brooke distributed three off the bench.

IT'S RAINING THREES FOR THE HERD:
Marshall hit a school-record 12 three pointers against Kent State on Saturday. The previous Marshall record was 11 set against Ball State in 1998. The Herd was 12-of-32 from behind the arc, with four Marshall players nailing more than one and three of the players hitting three -- Catie Knable, Yaschico Stevens and Toni Patillo. Marshall is 10th in the MAC in three-point field goals made per game (4.54).

KENT STATE'S HOME STREAK:
Kent State extended its school- and MAC-record for consecutive home wins with a 95-67 win over Ohio on Feb. 17 and finished the regular season with a 12-0 home record. The Golden Flashes 43-game home winning streak is the nations longest current streak in Division I. It is also the 18th longest streak in NCAA Division I history. Along with the current 43-game home winning streak, the Golden Flashes have also won 52 consecutive home contests versus MAC schools.

THE 1,000 POINT MARK TO ADD MORE:
Buffalo's Mari McClure is the latest -- and the 102nd -- member of the conference's 1,000 point club, and that exclusive list will likely add a couple more this week. McClure, who reached UB's 1,000 point level a couple of weeks ago, hit the MAC mark following her 31-point performance against the Falcons. The senior has 1,120 career points, with 1,021 of them coming since UB has been a member of the league.

Eastern Michigan junior Stephanie Smiley enters Wednesday's game with Western Michigan two points shy of the mark, while Ohio's Heather Laughlin is eight points from the mark and would become the 10th Bobcat to reach the mark.

THERE'S A FIRST FOR EVERYTHING:
Saturday's last second loss for Northern Illinois at Western Michigan marked the end of two statistical trends this season. NIU was 10-0 when leading at halftime but lost its 33-28 intermission advantage versus the Broncos. The Huskies also shot 57.1 percent from the field, the sixth time this season Northern Illinois made at least half of its attempts. NIU won the first five of those encounters before falling on Saturday.

MIAMI'S DEFENSE LEADS TO WIN:
The 32 points allowed versus Akron was the fewest Miami has given up since the 1994-95 season when it held Cincinnati to a career-low 29 points. Ironically, in Saturday's Senior Day, Miamis three freshmen (Colleen Day, Melanie Kozlowski, Kim Lancaster) finished the game with a combined 44 points on 16-of-23 shooting.

The margin of victory (62 points) was the largest ever over Akron and the second largest in Miami's history, with the biggest win coming over Toledo on Dec. 2, 1978, when the Red and White defeated the Rockets 104-32.

CMU PICKS UP FIRST LEAGUE WIN:
Central Michigan picked up its first MAC win of the season last Wednesday with a 74-68 win over arch rival Western Michigan. It marked the first time that the Chippewas have come from behind to win a game this season.

Freshman Beth Kindel led the Chippewa attack with 20 points and a game-and career-tying high 14 rebounds, and was one of four CMU players to reach double digits in points. Laurie Henderson and Mandy Elwer scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Desiree Eidson added 10 points. Vershaun Jones added 11 boards for CMU, which dominated the boards, 50-30.

GETTING TO THE FREE THROW LINE:
Ball State has established the school single-season record for free throws made with 460 this season. That betters the previous school standard of 417 set by the 1989-90 team. Through 27 games, Ball State had made more free throws (460) than its opponents have attempted (446).

SHOOT 50 PERCENT AND KSU WINS:
In the win over Marshall last Saturday, Kent State shot 59.2 percent (29-of-49) from the floor. It was third best percentage this season but the 49 field goal attempts was the least amount of shots taken this season. Kent State has shot better than 50 percent in eight games this season and they are a perfect 8-0 in those games. Kent State opponents have shot 50 percent or better in just one game and the Golden Flashes lost that matchup 88-57 to Miami Jan. 30. The Golden Flashes also shot 50 percent (7-of-14) from three-point land which is the second best percentage from beyond the arc this season.

DOUBLING YOUR PLEASURE:
Northern Illinois' Jennifer Youngblood leads the MAC in double-doubles with 10, following a 26-point, 10-rebound performance last Monday against Western Michigan. Three others -- Kent State's Julie Studer, Toledo's Kahli Carter and Ball State's Tamara Bowie -- are tied for second with nine. Below is a list of the league leaders in double-doubles:

MAC Double-Double Leaders
Jennifer Youngblood, NIU  -- 10
Julie Studer, KSU -- 9
Kahli Carter, UT -- 9
Tamara Bowie, BSU -- 9
Karen Deurloo, WMU -- 6
Tiffany Bell, UB -- 6
Beth Kindel, CMU -- 6
Shani Charles, EMU -- 5
Six tied with  4

PATILLO GOING OUT IN STYLE:
Marshall senior guard/forward Toni Patillo turned in a memorable final home game in the Cam Henderson Center on Saturday against Kent State. The Thundering Herd captain scored a season-high 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, and added two assists and three steals. She also sacrificed for her team by taking three charges.

SENIOR NIGHT PRODUCTIVE AT UB:
Mari McClure came out on fire on Senior Night on Saturday, scoring 31 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing seven assists to lead Buffalo to a 76-66 win over visiting Bowling Green. McClure has scored over 30 points on two occasions this year, and she has moved herself into sixth place all-time in career scoring at UB with 1,120 points. McClure also recorded 18 points, six rebounds and a career-high nine assists in Buffalo's double-overtime win over Ohio on Wednesday.

HANK SHOOTING HELPS ZIPS:
Akron's Katie Hanks has shot better than 50 percent from the field in five of the six games she has played in since a 15-game layoff due to injury. Her best performance in that span was last Wednesday (Feb. 21) against Toledo. Hanks was 5-for-6 from the floor, including a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, and finished with a season-high 15 points.

A LOOK AT THE RPI:
In this latest installment of the College Basketball News Womens RPI Report and the WBCA Summerville RPI rankings (through games of Feb. 25), the Mid-American Conference was ranked No. 17 and No. 15, respectively among 31 conferences in both listings. The MAC has six schools in the top-150 and eight in the top-200.

School CBN/WBCA
Toledo 58/59
Kent State 101/105
Eastern Michigan 119/116
Ball State 125/125
Buffalo 126/128
Northern Illinois 143/145
Miami 161/165
Western Michigan 189/188

SZALL DRAINING THE THREE BALL:
Ohio junior Cathy Szall hit six treys and scored 26 points in the Bobcats double-overtime loss at Buffalo last Wednesday. The six three-point field goals tied the team's individual season high for Szall, who is second in the MAC in three-point field goal percentage (.419) and tied for third in treys made (52). Szall is also fourth in the league in free throw percentage (.853) and tied for 12th in scoring (13.9). Her scoring average increases in league only games to 17.1, which is sixth in the conference.

PRESEASON POLL REVISITED:
Below is a comparison of the leagues preseason poll, which was released back in October, in relation to where the teams stand with one week remaining in the regular season.

East Division Pick -- +/-
Kent State 1st -- even
Buffalo 4th -- +2
Miami 2nd -- -1
Bowling Green 5th -- +1
Ohio  6th -- +1
Akron  3rd -- -3
Marshall 7th -- +1

West Division Pick -- +/- Toledo 4th -- +3 Ball State 3rd -- +1 Eastern Michigan 2nd -- -1 Northern Illinois 5th -- +2 Western Michigan 1st -- -4 Central Michigan 6th -- even

AUSTIN LEADS OFFENSIVE ATTACK:
Bowling Green freshman guard Lindsay Austin, the team's leader in assists with 96, paced the team in scoring for the second time this season last Wednesday at Eastern Michigan. Austin tallied 14 points versus the Eagles to go with three assists, then had eight points at Buffalo. Austin is sixth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.0 points per game.

GOFF IS THE MAC'S TOP RESERVE:
Johna Goff has scored in double figures in each of Ball States 16 league contests games to increase her season average to 14.1 points per game to rank as the league's top scoring freshman and 10th overall. That is the highest point total of any reserve in the MAC. She is averaging 16.1 points in conference games, which is ninth in the league.

CUSICK HELPS MIAMI TO PAIR OF WINS:
Miami sophomore Heather Cusick led the RedHawks to two straight victories last week. Cusick paced Miami with 20 points in a first win over Marshall, while adding five assists and no turnovers in 36 minutes versus Marshall. Versus Akron, she had six points, six rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes. For the week, Cusick averaged 13.0 points, 6.5 boards and 5.0 assists per game.

BELL NEARING SCORING MARKS:
Senior Tiffany Bell's senior season is shaping up to be the best of her career. Bell is averaging 24 points in her last three games and has three double-doubles in her last five games. With 481 points and 176 field goals this year, Bell is close to breaking both of those records. Brenna Doty holds the single-season record for points scored with 506, and Heidi Steckstor has the record for field goals in a season with 188. Bell is already UB's career leader in field goals (592), and she is also 107 points away from the all-time career scoring record at UB (1,703 career points, Brenna Doty, 1989-93).

KSU'S SENIOR DOMINANCE:
The four Kent State seniors, Carrie Nance, Liz Beggs, Lisa Wube and Julie Studer finished their careers at home Saturday, Feb. 17 in the 95-67 win over Ohio. Wube transferred to KSU from Indiana and has played two seasons while the other three are all three-year letterwinners.

The three four-year players finished their careers 43-1 at home with the only loss coming in the first home game of their careers. Overall the three have won four straight MAC East Division titles, they own three MAC regular season championships and two tournament championships. In the four years they are 88-27 overall and 60-5 in conference games.

3-POINT STREAKS AROUND THE MAC:
Toledo has currently made at least one three-point field goal in each of its last 165 contests, dating back to Jan. 24, 1996. While the Rockets current streak trails Western Michigans 178 consecutive games, Toledo has hit a three-pointer in 368 of its last 369 games. Below is a look at each of the teams present streak of consecutive games with a made three-point field goal.

Consecutive Games With A 3-Point Field Goal Made (Start of streak):
Western Michigan -- 178 (1/18/95)
Toledo -- 165 (1/24/96)
Eastern Michigan -- 128 (12/22/96)
Central Michigan -- 106 (11/29/97)
Bowling Green -- 82 (3/13/98)
Miami -- 80 (11/14/98)
Marshall -- 44 (12/29/99)
Kent State -- 42 (1/15/00)
Ball State -- 36 (2/5/00)
Buffalo -- 29 (2/25/00)
Akron -- 19 (12/8/00)
Ohio -- 15 (1/3/01)
Northern Illinois -- 13 (1/13/01)

THE NON-CONFERENCE LOOK:
The Mid-American Conference finished the regular season with a 67-76 record in non-conference action (.468), including a 2-9 slate versus nationally-ranked opponents. The MAC completed the 1999-00 season with a 62-77 non-conference record, which translated into a .446 winning percentage. That mark also included a 1-9 record against nationally-ranked opponents. In 1998-99, the MACs record in non-conference play was 59-66 (.472).

BSU FEATURED IN DIARY ON ESPN.COM:
The Ball State women's basketball team, under the direction of second-year head coach Brenda Oldfield, will receive national attention for the remainder of the basketball season on ESPN.com. Sophomores Amy Zercher and Tamara Bowie will provide an inside look to BSU womens basketball every week by submitting a diary which will be posted on the front page of the womens college basketball site on ESPN.com.

MAC TOURNEY MOVES TO GUND:
The 2001 Mid-American Conference Womens Basketball Tournament returns to Cleveland for a second consecutive year but will have a new location and a title sponsor. The MAC Womens Basketball Tournament will be held at Gund Arena, Tuesday, March 6 and Friday-Saturday, March 9-10. The league office announced in October at its media day that Kraft has signed a two-year agreement and will serve as the title sponsor of the tournament.

Five first-round games are slated for Saturday, March 3, with the two division winners and the team with the next best overall MAC record and winning percentage receiving a bye to the quarterfinals. Eight teams will convene for quarterfinal action on Tuesday, March 6.

Two semifinal contests are set for Friday, March 9, while the championship game is slated for Saturday, March 10. Individual game tickets for action at Gund Arena went on sale Monday, Jan. 29. General admission tickets for adults will be $10, while student general admission seating is $5.