March 16, 2000
GAME: No. 8 Drake (23-6) vs. No. 9 Clemson (18-11), East Regional, First Round.
TIME: Friday, 6 p.m. EST.
SITE: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.
Drake and Clemson square off in the first round of the NCAA tournament with the winner scheduled for a likely matchup against top-seeded Connecticut.
Drake clinched its seventh NCAA appearance with a 70-67 victory over Southwest Missouri State in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
The Bulldogs enter the tournament on a seven-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11 contests.
Freshman center Carla Bennett tallied career-highs of 27 points and 19 rebounds in the championship game and tied an MVC tournament record with 35 rebounds in three contests.
Bennett shot a conference-best 59.2 percent from the field during the regular season, good for eighth in the nation. She has led Drake in scoring in 14 of the last 24 games, averaging 16 points in that span.
Erin Richards is a sharpshooter from behind the 3-point arc, averaging 48.2 percent, fourth-best in the nation.
Drake boasts a tall frontcourt with Bennett, Richards and Haley Sames all six feet or taller. But inexperience may prove a factor as three of the Bulldogs’ four leading scorers are underclassmen.
Clemson, another young team, returns to the NCAA tournament for the 12th time in the past 13 years.
The Lady Tigers lost four senior starters from last year’s squad, which advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to Georgia.
Clemson relies on a defense that held opponents to 38.8 percent shooting from the field while forcing nearly 20 turnovers per game.
Freshman Chrissy Floyd has started only four of Clemson’s 29 games, but is the only Lady Tiger averaging in double figures (12.2). Clemson is averaging just 63.3 points while shooting 39.5 percent from the floor.
The winner will get the dubious honor of playing the top-ranked Huskies or No. 16 seed Hampton on Sunday.
PROBABLE STARTERS:Drake – F Erin Richards (11.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg), F Haley Sames (10.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg), C Carla Bennett (14.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), G Kristin Santa (7.3 ppg, 2.4 apg), G Stephanie Schmitz (10.2 ppg, 3.9 apg). Clemson – F Nuria Forns (7.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg), F Erin Bath (9.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg), C Joanie Mungro (6.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), G Krystal Scott (9.0 ppg, 3.0 apg), G Angie Cossey (9.5 ppg, 2.4 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE:Drake – Automatic, Missouri Valley Conference champion. Clemson – At-large bid, Atlantic Coast Conference.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD:Drake – 4-6, 6 years.Clemson – 12-12, 12 years.
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