Quinnipiac women advance to NCAAs for first time
As the game wound down, Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri soaked in the atmosphere. Her team was finally headed to the NCAA tournament.
Brittany McQuain scored 14 points to lead top-seeded Quinnipiac to a 72-33 rout of Saint Francis, Pa., in the NEC title game on Sunday night, earning the Bobcats their first trip to the NCAA tournament.
''It's an awesome, awesome moment,'' Fabbri said. ''I told the team, thanks for making my dream come true.''
Fans came streaming onto the court as the final buzzer sounded swarming the team at center court.
Quinnipiac (30-2) has won 22 straight games with the last loss coming on Dec. 29 at Georgia Tech. With their 30th win, the Bobcats joined a select group this season reaching that mark. Only Baylor, Notre Dame and Stanford have more victories.
The NEC title came in Quinnipiac's final year in the conference as the school is headed to the MAAC next season. The Bobcats will leave in record-setting fashion. It was the most lopsided game in conference history.
Ever since losing in the conference semifinals last season, the Bobcats have been focused on winning a conference crown.
''I think right now it's surreal,'' said McQuain, who earned outstanding player of the tournament honors. ''We're trying to let it all sink in. It's everything we talked about since losing to Monmouth in the semifinals last year. It's exactly what we wanted and I'm so proud of everything we done.''
The Bobcats returned 12 players from a team that won 22 games last season before losing to Temple in the WNIT, so their success was not entirely unexpected. The team really started believing this season could be something special when they beat St. John's by three points in December.
Quinnipiac, which had only made the NEC title game once before in 2006 losing to Sacred Heart, went undefeated in conference play. The Bobcats won by an average of 14 points.
It didn't take long for the Bobcats to get going on Sunday. Quinnipiac scored 11 of the first 14 points. After Saint Francis (17-15) got within 13-7, the Bobcats went on a 17-5 run to turn the game into a rout. Felicia Barron had seven points during the burst.
It has been a great year on campus at Quinnipiac. The men's hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the nation and now the women's basketball team will be headed to the NCAAs.
''I think today women's basketball had its day,'' Fabbri said. ''I said all year we're trying to keep up with the hockey team. Glad we were able to cut down a net.''
Saint Francis was looking for its 12th conference tournament title. The last came in 2011 when the team beat Monmouth, which is also bolting for the MAAC next season.
The Red Flash were done in by poor shooting. After Alexa Hayward hit a 3-pointer to start the game, the team went 8 minutes with a basket. The offensive woes continued as they finished the first half with a season-low 15 points and shot just 22 percent (6-for-27) from the field.
Things didn't get any better in the second half as Quinnipiac scored 23 of the first 25 points. Saint Francis missed 16 of its first 17 shots and trailed 55-17 with 8:19 left in the game.
Rebecca Sparks finally ended the nearly 9-minute offensive drought with a layup.
The Red Flash finished the game at 24 percent, setting the record for fewest points in an NEC title game, easily surpassing the 48 Monmouth scored last season. Saint Francis also broke the overall conference tournament mark for futility set by Quinnipiac in 2011.
''We missed a lot of shots and didn't play our game,'' Saint Francis coach Joe Haigh said. ''Credit Quinnipiac for that. They defended extremely well, rebounded well. We're not going to beat anybody scoring 33 points.''
This was Haigh's first season in charge after former coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl left for Providence.
The NEC is one of the rare conferences that re-seeds its bracket after the first round. Saint Francis was the fourth seed and beat fifth-seeded Central Connecticut in the opening round. The Red Flash then beat No. 2 Sacred Heart in the semifinals.
Quinnipiac beat Bryant in its tournament opener before topping sixth seed Mount St. Mary's in the semifinals.
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