The Shawnee State University womens basketball team takes the court for a shootaround during halftime of the first round game between Cornerstone and Taylor. SSU will tip its tournament run at 12 p.m. (1 p.m. EST) this afternoon against Florida Memorial.
It’s a whole different atmosphere.
With the tip of the 2009 NAIA Division II National Championships just a few hours away, you can tell.
The players are listening to music, talking, joking and doing the things they would do before any other game. But this is not just any game for SSU, which has suffered first round defeats in its last two trips to Sioux City.
The Bears know it. But they also know that there are a number of differences this year that could work in their favor.
SSU is a much more experienced team than what Minot State saw last year as they upset the No. 2-seeded Bears. This year, No. 1 SSU will have four starters with tournament experience (instead of just one).
Also working in the Bears favor this year is the fact that the game will tip at noon (1 p.m. EST). Last year, the team was forced to wait through the morning and early afternoon before making the two-block trek to the Tyson Events Center for pre-game. The previous trip (2006), SSU played one of the early morning contests.
This year’s game time, however, is perfect.
The Bears were able to get up and have a good breakfast between 8 and 9 a.m. before coming to the arena shortly after 10 a.m. The team had to bundle up for the short trip. It’s 10:34 a.m. as I write this and the temperature is four degrees with a wind chill of minus-17!
That’s a big change for the team, which was adjusting to warming weather in Portsmouth. But if something like the weather played a factor in team morale and focus before the game, the advantage would go to Shawnee State with its opponent, Florida Memorial, used to the sunny weather of Miami, Fla.
The Bears are out of the harsh elements and in the arena now preparing for the first round contest.
SSU is sitting in the stands taking in the sights as Taylor University (Ind.) jumps out to an early seven-point advantage over Concordia University (Neb.). That is the second contest of the day with Cornerstone University (Mich.) defeating Cartinal Stritch (Wis.) at 8:30 a.m. in the tournament’s first contest.
It’s shortly after 11 a.m. The team came onto the court to have a shootaround during halftime of the Taylor/Concordia contest. The Bears looked relaxed and focused with the tip to their contest just one hour away.
Florida Memorial did not come out for the shootaround.
Both teams are in their respective locker rooms finalizing things and getting ready to take the floor for the 12 p.m. (1 p.m. EST) contest.
Stay with the Portsmouth Daily Times as we keep you up-to-date with SSU’s run in the 2009 NAIA Division II National Basketball Championship.
Today’s game will be aired on local radio, 107.5 FM with coverage starting about 20 minutes before the tip.