Women’s basketball: CAA tournament a chance to finish strong

The women’s basketball team finishes the season at the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Harrisonburg, Va., this weekend. The Huskies finished with a 7-11 record in conference as the eighth seed will face the ninth seed Georgia State. NU has never made it past the CAA quarterfinals.

By Chris Tramontozzi, News Correspondent

The women’s basketball team looks to put a positive ending on a mediocre season at the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament in Harrisonburg, Va., this weekend.

The Huskies have won only one game in each of the last two tournaments. If they can put together four wins they will take home the CAA title and get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Northeastern comes into the tournament as the eighth seed with a 12-17 overall record, 7-11 in the CAA.

“This tournament is very big to us” captain and senior forward Kim Carr said. “Everyone comes in 0-0; we come in to win and we play for each game because it is one and done.”

NU enters on a three-game losing skid which began Feb. 25 against Delaware and continued with loses to Hofstra Feb. 28 and to Virginia Commonwealth March 3.

According to head coach Daynia La-Force Mann, the Huskies are not letting this late season skid get into their psyche. The coaches and players are preaching a new motto of mental toughness which La-Force Mann thinks is the key to the Huskies being able to make a run through the tournament.

“The one thing that’s been missing throughout the year is our mental toughness” La-Force Mann said. “We weren’t able to sustain leads … we weren’t able to overcome runs and adversities during the game.”

This motto is printed across their chests on their new shoot-around shirts, which read “mental toughness” on the front. Where a last name would normally appear on the back of the jersey is “third season,” which is above the number 4.

“The third season, which is the postseason, we are focusing on mental toughness,” La-Force Mann said. “The four is our goal … the number of wins that gets us the championship.”

In the first game Northeastern plays Georgia State, who they beat 61-53 Feb. 4 and 50-40 Feb. 21.

“Its hard to beat a team three times in a row in conference” sophomore guard Brittany Wilson said. “They’re going to come at us more aggressive just because they lost twice … we can’t go into the game thinking we are automatically going to beat them because we already beat them twice.”

Georgia State’s leading scorer, senior forward Danyiell McKeller, will be playing with an injury – if she plays at all. She missed the last four games with a hamstring injury.

“They played well without her,” Wilson said. “We are expecting other girls to step up and play better and that’s what we have to look out for.”

If they get past Georgia State, the Huskies will play the No. 1 seed Old Dominion. The Huskies beat Old Dominion earlier this year and the players believe that they can beat anyone in this tournament.

“We have a good chance.” Wilson said. “We’ve given most the top teams in the CAA a good run. We are the underdogs and that makes it better for us.”

Wilson and Carr said they will look to lead the way in the tournament. Wilson, who was named third-team all-CAA at the league’s awards banquet last night, averaged 14.5 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game, both tops on the squad. Carr, although she did not garner any all-conference recognition, led the conference in field goal percentage at .767 and averaged 15 points and seven rebounds in conference games.

La-Force Mann said the keys to a good run through this tournament are putting together both aspects of their game, to play well on offense and defense at the same time. In the first half of the season the Huskies averaged over 70 points a game but defensively played poorly. In the second half their offense production dipped but the Huskies have given up less then 60 points in seven of their last 10 games.

“Just the combination of the first half of the season establishing ourselves offensively and the second half of stepping it up on defense.” La-Force Mann said. “The one thing we need is mental toughness.”

Northeastern tips off at 12 p.m. today.