The Storyline... For the second straight season the third-seeded Sacred Heart women's basketball team will take on the sixth-seed of the Northeast Conference tournament, Central Connecticut State. SHU and the Blue Devils will clash for the third time in 2010-11 Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm inside the William H. Pitt Center. The Pioneers closed the regular season winning four of the last five games to secure home floor in the opening round of the tournament as the league returns to a high seed hosting format after playing the event at a neutral site the previous three years. In the 2010 tournament #6 CCSU upset #3 Sacred Heart and got 17 points and 18 rebounds from now senior Justina Udenze. However, the Pioneers have never been knocked out of the NEC tournament in the quarterfinal round in back-to-back years since joining the league in 2010-11. Junior Callan Taylor and freshman Ericka Norman lead SHU into the playoffs after each earning All-Northeast Conference honors. Taylor was named to the first team while Norman earned a spot on the All-Rookie squad. Both SHU and CCSU picked up a win on the opposition's home floor in the regular season with the Pioneers defeating the Blue Devils 12 days prior to Saturday's quarterfinal matchup, 71-55.
Series... The Pioneers lead the all-time series over the Blue Devils with a 24-11 record. SHU has posted a 20-5 mark versus Central Connecticut State since joining the division I ranks. Sacred Heart snapped a three game CCSU winning streak in the series with a triumph in Detrick Gymnasium earlier this year. This will be just the second time the two programs meet in the post season after CCSU's victory in 2010.
Scouting the Blue Devils... Central Connecticut State will send three senior starters to the floor in Saturday's NEC quarterfinal showdown. The Blue Devils rank last in the Northeast Conference in three-point field goal percentage, hitting shots from downtown at a 26.6 percent clip. In their victory over SHU earlier this season CCSU went 6-of-16 (37.5%) from beyond the arc. Justine Udenze paces the squad in scoring with an average of 11.8 points per game. Leanne Crockett is third in the NEC on the glass, pulling in 9.1 rebounds per contest in 2010-11. The Blue Devils are also tenth in the league turning the ball over 20.1 times per game this year. The Pioneers are 13-3 this season when forcing the opposition into at least 20 turnovers.
Taylor Named To All-Northeast Conference First Team... Junior Callan Taylor led the league with 12 double-doubles in 2010-11 and averaged 15.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game against NEC opposition en route to being named to the All-NEC first team. The six-foot forward also finished the season as the circuit's top free-throw shooter, knocking down 88.3 percent of her attempts (83-94). Taylor's nod to the All-NEC first team continues her rise through the Northeast Conference after earning All-Rookie team honors her freshman season, followed by a second team selection last year.
Norman Continues Pioneer All-Rookie Squad Streak... Freshman Ericka Norman became the fourth Pioneer in as many years to capture a spot on the Northeast Conference All-Rookie squad. Norman's first year at Sacred Heart saw the point guard average 3.6 assists per game, ranking sixth in the NEC. Since entering the lineup as a starter, Norman dished out 4.8 assists per game as well as being the squad's top defender. Norman supplied an average of 4.7 assists per game against NEC opponents and tied a career best on five occasions with seven assists in a single game. She posted the league's best assist-to-turnover ratio, supplying 105 total assists en route to a 1.22 mark.
Crazy Finish To Regular Season Ends With SHU In Familiar Position... Entering the final day of the 2010-11 regular season only the eighth seed was decided for the 2011 NEC tournament. However, after the dust settled and the scoreboard watching was over the Pioneers had secured a home game as well as the number three seed in the playoffs for the second straight season. But parody could remain alive in the NEC postseason as every road team Saturday afternoon has already defeated its high seed opponent in 2010-11.
Saying Goodbye to a Spectacular Senior Class... Before last week's game against Monmouth the Pioneers honored this year's four graduating seniors: Alisa Apo, Maggie Cosgrove, Maureen Reilly, and Markie Schmidt. Together this group has compiled an 81-41 overall record in their time at Sacred Heart. In the 2008-09 season this group was part of Sacred Heart's historical perfect run through the Northeast Conference that concluded with the program's second championship and trip to the NCAA tournament. The class of 2011 has posted a 56-16 mark against league opposition and won 47 games at home inside the Pitt Center.
Let's Play to 70... Sacred Heart is 7-0 this season when reaching the 70 point plateau. The Pioneers last scored 70+ in back-to-back wins over Bryant and Central Connecticut State. SHU also holds a 0-3 record in 2010-11 when opponents notch at least 70 points. Sacred Heart is 9-2 when tallying 60-69 points and is 2-9 without reaching the 60 point mark.
Keeping Them Down... Sacred Heart is 14-0 this season when they lead heading into the intermission. The Pioneers are16-1 in 2010-11 when having an advantage with ten minutes remaining in regulation. SHU holds an 18-1 mark when leading with 5:00 minutes to play with the only loss coming against Wagner as SHU led by one late after overcoming a 10 point Seahawk advantage in the second half.