Saturday, March 31, 2012

WNIT: Getting ready for JMU-Oklahoma State

The James Madison Dukes traveling Stillwater, Okla. in a tour bus once used by rapper Eminem? That's just one of the nuggets gleaned from JMU's recap of the team's activities leading up to today's 3 p.m. WNIT championship game at OSU's Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The Dukes (29-7) should expect a daunting road atmosphere, as the Cowgirls (21-12) have seen their attendance spike for each of the five games to date in the WNIT. OSU drew 3,484 for its semifinal victory over San Diego on Wednesday, and as of Friday afternoon, approximately 3,000 tickets had been sold. Also on Friday, men's basketball coach Travis Ford purchased 400 tickets for students. Two other anonymous donors bought 200 additional student tickets.

The largest road crowd any of these Dukes have played before (in a JMU uniform) was 5,179 at Old Dominion on Feb. 10, 2010. The Dukes won that game 65-59. Later that season, JMU played before 6,325 in an NCAA Tournament first-round loss at ODU's Constant Center, but that crowd was full of JMU fans.

NCAA Tournament that year: 6,325 vs. Temple at ODU.

As for the game, Cowgirls coach Jim Littell said it will a battle of similar teams.

"They're a lot like us," he said. "They've got a couple of guards that can shoot the ball or put in on the floore. They've got some size. We expect it to be a very tough game for us."

The Dukes were led in the semifinal victory by junior Toni Young, who scored a season-high 27 points against San Diego. Young led the Cowgirls in scoring in 2010-11 but had been slowed this season by an arm injury she suffered prior to her second-round WNIT game a year ago when she fell awkwardly attempting to dunk in pre-game warmups.

Finally, much of the nation will no doubt be pulling for the Cowgirls, who have rallied together after losing head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna in a tragic plane crash in mid-November. Even ESPN has taken notice - on Thursday, Littell was featured telling the Cowgirls' tale on the network's flagship program, SportsCenter.

1 comment:

  1. Great season by the Dukes, nothing to be ashamed about. Proud of the Lady Dukes. They had a lot of missed opportunities and certainly home field advantage was the difference maker. With the new talent coming in, I am excited to see how good this team is going to be!