LOS ANGELES, CA -- A first time meeting awaits in the wings as the fourth-seeded Texas A&M women’s basketball team (25-6) faces fifth-seeded George Washington (27-3) in the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship on Monday, March 19 at 7 p.m (CT). Both teams come into the matchup as the reigning Big 12 Conference and Atlantic 10 Conference regular season champions and advanced past Saturday’s first round with wins over 13th-seeded Texas-Arlington (58-50) and 12th-seeded Boise State (76-67) respectively. For the Aggies, it marked the second time in school history in which an A&M squad had advanced past the first round since a Sweet 16 appearance in 1994. Two of the nation’s top defenses will go head-to-head in a quest for a coveted Sweet 16 berth in the Dallas Regional. The Aggies envision playing back home in the Lone Star State, but will have their hands full with the Colonials. GWU has only lost three games this season including two top 25 losses to top-seeded Tennessee and defending national champion Maryland. The Aggies have won 12 of their last 14 games with two losses to NCAA Tournament participant Iowa State, while the Colonials have won 20 of their last 21 contests with a loss to unranked Saint Joseph’s in the semifinals of the A-10 Championship. In last year’s NCAA Tournament, both teams were selected to the same regional with A&M seeded higher at No. 6 and GWU at No. 7 in the Cleveland Regional. The Aggies are vying for their second all-time appearance in the Sweet 16 and the Colonials their third.
MADE FOR TV
For the ninth time this season, Texas A&M will showcase its talents before a national television audience on ESPN2. It will mark the program’s third all-time appearance (1-1) on the Deuce. Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Lisa Leslie (color analyst) and Krista Blunk (sideline reporter) will call the game live from the Galen Center. Not shy of the limelight, A&M has been successful this season compiling an 8-2 record when playing on the tube. All rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be televised exclusively on ESPN and ESPN2.
A TALE OF TWO FRIENDS
Two coaching fraternity friends will be on both ends of the sidelines Monday night hoping to lead their team into the Sweet 16. Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair and George Washington head coach Joe McKeown have been good friends over the years. Last summer, Blair and McKeown both fulfilled a lifetime dream by attending The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club. Blair also celebrated McKeown’s 50th birthday in Washington, D.C. Blair (481-212) is in his 22nd year of coaching in the collegiate ranks, while McKeown (481-166) is in his 21st year. Both have won exactly the same number of career victories (481) leading up to the second-round matchup. Blair is one of four national finalists for the prestigious Naismith Coach of the Year Award. He is one of four coaches in NCAA history to take three teams to the NCAA Tournament (Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and Texas A&M), while McKeown has taken two teams to the Big Dance (New Mexico State and GWU). Both are the only male coaches to be hired in their respective program’s history. They have played each other twice before during the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons when George Washington played a home-and-home series with Arkansas. The Colonials posted a 2-0 record against the Razorbacks to give McKeown the two-game advantage over Blair. A&M and George Washington will meet next season in regular season non-conference play with a home-and-home series scheduled between the two schools in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Both teams carry a 14-player roster and have more than seven players over six-foot. Reserve center Lenka Zimova (Partizanske, Slovakia) is the tallest player for Texas A&M at 6-foot-6, while center Jessica Adair is the tallest player for GWU at 6-foot-4. The Aggies and Colonials rely on balanced scoring with four players averaging double figures in the lineup. Sophomore center La Toya Micheaux (7.4 rpg) and Jessica Adair (7.9 rpg) lead their respective teams in the rebounding column averaging nearly the same rebounds on both the offensive and defensive ends. Micheaux has brought down 230 rebounds this season and 110 on the offensive glass, while Adair has grabbed 222 rebounds and 104 on the offensive end. Both team’s floor generals are averaging more than 34 minutes per game with Texas A&M’s A’Quonesia Franklin (34.8) and George Washington’s Kimberly Beck (35.8). Franklin has dished out 147 assists and is three short of recording her third consecutive 150+ assist season. Beck has distributed the ball 164 times this season for the Colonials. Four players on the GWU roster have played in all 30 games of the season, while five players on the A&M roster have seen action in all 31.
G - Takia Starks – 14.1 ppg
G/F - Danielle Gant – 10.9 ppg
G - A’Quonesia Franklin – 10.0 ppg
G/F - Morenike Atunrase – 10.4 ppg