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Published: Friday, 3/16/2007

Falcons play Oklahoma State in East Lansing

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Going into last night's NCAA tournament selection show, the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team didn't care about its seed.

The Falcons simply wanted somewhere their families and growing fan base could drive to.

BGSU fans, welcome to East Lansing.

BGSU received a No. 7 seed and will play 10th-seeded Oklahoma State Sunday in East Lansing, Mich., just a two-hour drive from Bowling Green. Game time is 2 p.m. on ESPN.

"We're going to pack that place," senior Ali Mann said.

The seed tied for the highest received by BGSU. The Falcons were also a seven seed in 1994. The University of Toledo received a No. 6 seed in 1999.

The Falcons are in the Greensboro, N.C., regional along with No. 1 overall seed Duke. Coach Curt Miller said the seeding was irrelevant to him because he already had an idea of what kind of team the 29-3 Falcons would draw.

"We were either going to play a team from an outstanding conference that finished in the middle of the pack, or we were going to play a champion of maybe a smaller conference," Miller said. "But if we could get to East Lansing or Pittsburgh, we knew our fans would really travel. After what we saw in Cleveland, and last year in Purdue, it's a dream come true to be in East Lansing."

The amount of BGSU fans that traveled to West

Lafayette, Ind., last year for the Falcons' first-round matchup were the most by any team besides host Purdue, said athletic director Greg Christopher, who was working at Purdue at the time. And the Mid-American Conference championship game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Saturday was like a home game for BGSU.

"There were 4,000 people at that game, and I bet 75 percent of them were our fans," Mann said. "It's an amazing showing for a team like us. [The location] is a great tribute to our fans in the community and to all the support we've had all year."

It's a trip home for senior Megan Thorburn, who grew up in nearby Mason, Mich.

"Not a lot of my friends have come down to see me a lot, so it'll give them a good chance to go," Thorburn said. "Anytime we get a lot of fans, it gets us really hyped. It feels like you're home."

The Falcons, ranked No. 20 in this week's Associated Press poll, averaged 1,607 fans in 13 games at Anderson Arena this season, the highest attendance total in at least 16 seasons.

"Fan support is what has pushed us through this season," junior Kate Achter said. "We feed off the crowd."

Oklahoma State (20-10) earned an at-large bid. The Cowgirls finished sixth in the Big 12 Conference at 8-8.

"They compete in one of the toughest conferences in the country," Miller said. "I think the Big 12 is right behind the ACC and SEC as being one of the top conferences in the country."

The winner will play the winner of No. 2 seed Vanderbilt and No. 15 seed Delaware State on Tuesday.

Tickets are available at msuspartans.com. Falcon Club director Jane Myers said fans should call the Falcon Club at 419-372-7100 for information on buses traveling to East Lansing and pregame events.

MILLER HONORED: Miller was named the Region 4 coach of the year by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association for the second straight year. The honor means he is one of eight finalists for national coach of the year.



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