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Women's basketball: Time to Shine

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Awwwwww yeah, this NIT party’s just getting’ started, y’all!  Tonight, it’s the women’s turn to rock Welsh-Ryan Arena, with a first-round matchup against Creighton.

Tip-off is 7 p.m. Wildcat Time, tickets are $8 general admission (free for students), and while the game won’t be on TV, it will be streamed live for free on NUsports.com.

What, you’ll be glued to the men’s NCAA tourney games?  Getting slizzered like a blizzard at a St. Patrick’s Day party? 

Well, hit the jump anyway for a closer look at the NU vs. Creighton matchup. Good learning, good life.

The Creighton Bluejays are 18-12 this season, going 12-6 in Missouri Valley Conference play. Our Wildcats, meanwhile, went 18-13, 6-10 in Big Ten play.

Look for NU to take advantage of Amy Jaeschke’s height and size advantage in the post, particularly in this matchup. Regardless of opponent, NU plays its best when it feeds Jaeschke, either to have her go one-on-one or draw a double/triple team and kick the ball out to an open shooter. Very Eschmeyer-esque.

Jaeschke, besides being an All-American candidate and Wooden Award finalist, is 6’5" and averages 21.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. She will go up against 6’2" Creighton senior center Kelli Nelson, who has been hampered by a leg injury and averages 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Advantage: decidedly NU.

On the perimeter, the ‘Cats will have to defend first-team All-MVC guard Kelsey Woodward, who averages 13.0 points per game, and MVC Freshman of the Year Carli Tritz, who averages 11.3 points per game.

The last time we saw the Wildcats, senior point guard Beth Marshall looked to still be feeling the effects of a corneal ulcer in her right eye that caused her to miss a game. Hopefully the two-week layoff since the BigTen tournament will have allowed her to fully heal. Marshall’s 4.4 assists per game leads the team, and her 10.1 points per game are third. Forward Kendall Hackney’s 11.3 points per game are second on the team.

The teams have not met this season, nor did they play any common opponents. The last time the two teams played was in 2005, when none of either team’s current players were on campus and NU had a different coach, so there’s probably not much to be learned from that 93-77 NU win.

Creighton’s biggest win this year was a 63-31 beatdown of Marquette, which is now ranked No. 25 in the AP poll. NU’s biggest wins were a season sweep of No. 18 Ohio State.

So what to make of this matchup?

On the one hand, momentum figures to favor NU, as Creighton comes into this game on the heels of a four-game losing streak, including a loss in the first round of its conference tournament.

On the other hand, NU played its worst game of the season in its most recent game, a 56-25 loss to Michigan State in the second round of the BigTen tournament, a game in which the Wildcats committed almost as many turnovers as points scored.

Creighton does have the edge on postseason experience, as the Bluejays are in the NIT for the fourth straight year. NU, meanwhile, is in its second straight NIT after having not made the postseason since 1996.

I’m not going to pretend to know enough about Creighton to hazard a prediction, but on paper, NU ought to be favored. I mean, we didn't get a home game because we're underdogs. Winner gets either Memphis or Alabama, who play their first round match tonight also.

Here’s hoping for a good turnout at Welsh-Ryan.