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Published: Sunday, 3/18/2007

3 MAC crowns OK with BGSU

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
BGSU coach Curt Miller would like his basketball team to add to the 101 wins his seniors  already have racked up. BGSU coach Curt Miller would like his basketball team to add to the 101 wins his seniors already have racked up.
CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge

EAST LANSING, Mich. - No matter what happens today, Bowling Green State University's seniors expect to be remembered for their three consecutive Mid-American Conference women's basketball titles.

But the focus this week has been to accomplish something more.

The Falcons want to give their school an NCAA tournament win for the first time in 18 years. They have their chance at 2:30 p.m. today against Oklahoma State at Michigan State's Breslin Center.

"We're all trying to really take that next step," BGSU coach Curt Miller said. "That was our motto the whole week."

Seniors Liz Honegger, Ali Mann, Megan Thorburn, Carin Horne and Amber Flynn have won 101 games in their career, the most of any recruiting class in BGSU history. They set a MAC record with 39 consecutive league wins from the 2004-05 season to this year.

Two first-round exits the past two seasons came while BGSU was the much lower-seeded team. This year, the Falcons (29-3) are the No. 7 seed, matching the best seeding in school history.

Before practice yseterday, none of the players wanted to discount the MAC championships. All of them wanted to do what only the 1989 BGSU team has done, win a first-round game.

"It's our last game in leaving our mark there," Mann said. "As far as seniors, that's what we came to do but haven't been able to do for the last three years. Hopefully this is the year that we do it."

Although everyone readily admits the expectations, practices this week have been like any other. One thing the team has learned from the past two years in the postseason is that the preparation has to be the same. No extra pressure can come from the game, or the two tourney losses that have preceded it.

"It's not something we dwell on," Miller said. "[The seniors] are as hungry for that win as the coaching staff is. But we haven't changed our approach. We don't have to be superhuman to win. We have to do what we do best and stick to the game plan."

Even though Oklahoma State has no tournament experience, Miller said he thinks that only makes a difference in how a team handles external obligations of the week leading up to the game.

"When it comes down [to today] I don't think there's any difference between Oklahoma State and us," he said.

The 10th-seeded Cowgirls (20-10) were knocked out in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament by Kansas, losing 71-62.

"We were eliminated very quickly because we showed too much nerves, too much emotion," OSU coach Kurt Budke said. "We were a little bit scared and we played that way. Hopefully that experience will help us with this experience."

Budke, who coached mid-major Louisiana Tech for three seasons, borrowed the "underdog" card from Miller for the first-round matchup even though the Cowgirls are from the stronger conference.

"We've been the underdog all year long, and we've kind of relished that all year long," Budke said. "We're a big time underdog tomorrow.

"They're a very confident team that doesn't beat themselves. We're going to have to play a perfect game to win this game. But these kids have done it before."

The Falcons' seniors know their legacy at BGSU will be long-remembered. They still would like to add to it.

"The success that we've had is what people will really remember down the road," Honegger said. "They will remember we got there three times.

"But we know this is our last opportunity to make a statement."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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