A Look at Tonight’s Contest

The Lady Catamounts will be looking to achieve something tonight they were not able to do in 2005 – advance in the NCAA Tournament.

At 8pm Eastern, the 13 seeded Western Carolina women’s basketball team will square off against No. 4 seeded Vanderbilt in a first-round game at the Pit/Bob King Court in Albuquerque, N.M.

The game will be aired on ESPN2, free online at NCAA.com and broadcast over WWCU-FM.

“It’s going to be a battle. We have to play very intelligent, because they are going to play very intelligent. And they take advantage of any little mistakes. So we have to play very smart, very hard,” said head coach Kelli Harper about tonight’s contest. “Vanderbilt is a very talented team. They are actually one of my favorite teams to watch. They execute well and they play hard. Coach Balcome does an incredible job coaching. There are several similarities between the teams, many on different levels, but a lot of times I feel we have to out work our opponents to get a win. “

Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb said her Commodores won’t be taking the game lightly either.

“From what I’ve seen of them so far, I think they run great stuff. They can score inside and out. They are very well-balanced,” said Balcom. “They are a great rebounding team. That’s going to be huge. You want teams that play great defense and rebound well, and that’s why they won their conference and are in the NCAA tournament.”

Harper said at yesterday’s press conference that the Lady Catamounts are looking to win against Vanderbilt and that they will work to find ways to do that.

“Being from Tennessee you walk out on the court and expect to win. It is just a part of who I am and my background and I really feel we have been able to instill that in our players. We’ve played some pretty tough competition in the past few years and I do not think there has ever been a time our players have walked out on the court not thinking they were going to win. They have understood there may be some huge challenges ahead of them, but they have a winner’s mentality and I think that is part of the reason we have been successful,” said Harper.

“I’d love to be able to contain [Vanderbilt’s] big scorers. I don’t know exactly how we are going to do that yet, but we are working on it. Hopefully, we will have a game plan that the players believe in and our staff is comfortable with.”

Senior Kendra Eaton says the team has already been practicing some strategies this week for tonight’s game.

“I think one thing coach has emphasized in practice was boxing out Vanderbilt because they like to go to the boards. We just need to outwork them because they are bigger and stronger and more athletic than we are.”

Senior Lauren Powell added that WCU is going in with a right mindset.

“Everybody’s excited that we’re in the NCAA tournament,” Powell said. “We’re going in it wanting to win.”

The Lady Catamounts, who are entering the game against the Commodores with a ten game winning streak, will be looking to void a 2005 NCAA First Round Tournament loss to Tennessee.

Vanderbilt also comes into the game on a hot streak. Despite losing its final two regular-season games, it caught fire and won the Southeastern Conference Tournament, winning three straight games.

The Western Carolinian has a complete look at the two team’s recent successes and statistics on the front page of the WC website, under the Western Carolina and Vanderbilt Game Notes headlines.

Tonight’s expected starters and individual statistics are also listed on the front page.