Boca Raton, FL - The Florida Atlantic University women's basketball team isn't complaining about having to wait an extra day to begin play in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Championship (SBC) Tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas. FAU will play the winner of the first-round matchup between the University of North Texas and Troy University on Saturday, March 3. A second-place finish in the league's East Division gave the Owls a first-round bye into the quarterfinal round on Sunday, March 4 at 3:45 p.m.
The Owls enter the conference tournament with a 16-11 overall record and an 11-5 mark against league opponents. The team achieved its first winning season since joining the SBC and the first since the 2005-06 campaign. The 11 SBC wins are also a first-time achievement for the program.
"This has already been a great year for our program. However, there's still more things to accomplish," said Chancellor Dugan, FAU's head women's basketball coach. "Winning the Sun Belt Conference championship has been this team's goal since the start of preseason practice. Now, the players can turn those goals into reality by winning this tournament. It all starts on Sunday. We are preparing for both North Texas and Troy and eager to get started with the postseason."
FAU won its only meeting against North Texas, picking up a 71-63 home-court victory on February 11. The team swept both games against East Division opponent Troy, earning a 66-46 victory in Alabama on January 19 and a 68-62 win in Boca Raton on February 25.
A victory in the quarterfinal game would be FAU's first postseason win since capturing the 2006 Atlantic Sun Conference tournament title.
Senior guard Teri Stampswas named the SBC's Defensive Player of the Year, marking the first specialty award in the history of the women's basketball program in the league. The honor was voted on by league coaches and media members. Offensively, Stamps averaged eight points a game and matched her career high with 22 points in the win over Troy on February 25.
"Teri's defensive intensity has made us a better team - defensively and offensively -- and made each of the players better by having been defended by her in practice each day," said Dugan. "She has always been a good defensive player, but this year she was more consistent and took it to another level."
Sophomore forward Chenise Millerreceived second-team All-SBC honors. The Oak Park, Michigan native leads the Owls in scoring (10.5 ppg), rebounds (7.4 rpg) and blocks (24). She recorded the only three double-doubles on the season, with a career-high 18 points in a home conference win over Western Kentucky University on January 25. Stamps and Miller helped the team achieve a nine-win improvement from last season, tying for second-best in the nation among NCAA Division I teams.
Senior post player April Goinsenters the postseason playing her best basketball of the season after consecutive double-figure scoring performances. The Detroit, Michigan native scored a season-best 16 points in the Senior Day victory over Troy on February 25. Overall, she is averaging 8.3 points per outing.
Sophomore guards Latavia Dempsey and Kimberly Smith each made 34 three-point field goals this season. Dempsey has come off the bench to average 7.3 points a game. Senior guard DaLita Scott made 72 percent of her free throw attempts and had 13 points in a home conference win over rival FIU on February 4. Sophomore guard Takia Brooks led the team with 60 assists. Senior post player Vontrice Dennisscored nearly five points and grabbed four rebounds per contest after getting off to a slow start after suffering an off-season injury.
"We have a balanced scoring attack. I always like to have balanced teams. This means that the opposing defense has to guard all five players on the court, instead of focusing on guarding just one or two players," said Dugan. "Maintaining this balance will be a key for us doing well in the conference tournament."
FAU won five of its 11 SBC games by a total of seven points, with one-point victories over FIU (50-49 on January 21 in Miami), Denver (51-50 on February 8 in Boca Raton) and South Alabama (41-40 on February 22 in Boca Raton), and two-point triumphs over Western Kentucky (60-58 on January 25 in Boca Raton) and FIU (51-49 on February 4 in Boca Raton).
"Our players appreciate that there's a fine line between winning and losing, and that we're going to have to play hard in every possession - offensively and defensively," Dugan said. "It took a lot of hard work and determination to get to this point, having the first-round bye. There are no tomorrows in postseason tournament play. The same keys to our regular-season success - rebounding, defense, turnovers, making free throws and playing together as a team - will be even more a factor in how we do in this tournament."
Live audio and statistics of all postseason action can be found at www.fausports.com. Information about the tournament can also be found on the Sun Belt Conference's Championship Central web page at www.sunbeltsports.org.