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Friday, July 16

Pingeton thrilled with Preseason WNIT bid

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[JULY 16, 2004]  NORMAL -- For the first time since 1996 and the second time in the program's history, the Illinois State University women's basketball team has accepted an invitation to play in the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament.

The Redbirds will play their opening-round game Nov. 12 at Notre Dame. The Irish were 21-11 last year and defeated Missouri Valley Conference champion Southwest Missouri State in overtime in a first-round NCAA contest. Notre Dame is one of nine teams -- six in the NCAA, three in the NIT -- in this year's Preseason WNIT, which played in postseason last March. Missouri Valley Conference runner-up Creighton won the 2004 postseason tournament.

The winner of the ISU-Notre Dame game plays the winner of Western Illinois (20-9 in 2004) at Nebraska (18-12) on Nov. 14. Semifinals are Nov. 17, and the championship will be either Nov. 20 or 21. The other four teams in Illinois State's bracket are Duke (30-4), South Florida (14-15), Middle Tennessee (24-8) and Davidson (16-12). All games are played at campus sites.

Illinois State returns three senior starters -- guard Jaci McCormack and forwards Katie Donovan and Erin Keeney -- from a team that went from a 7-21 record in 2002-03 to 16-13 in 2003-04 under first-year head coach Robin Pingeton. The Redbirds had the nation's most improved record among the 40 NCAA Division I teams with new head coaches in 2003-04. They also ranked No. 4 in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game, with a school-record 220 for the season.

Pingeton says the Preseason WNIT opportunity will help this year's team immensely.

"It is exciting for us to be part of such a prestigious tournament," said Pingeton. "With an early start to the schedule, we're a bit limited in our preseason preparation time, but going against this caliber of team is going to help us prepare for our tough non-conference and conference challenges."


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With Illinois State playing host to the 2005 State Farm-Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in March, the Preseason WNIT makes the season start on a special note as well.

"A lot of exciting things are happening for women's basketball at Illinois State, and we are appreciative of those opportunities," said Pingeton.

Illinois State's invitation marks the 10th time in 11 seasons a Missouri Valley team has been selected for the Preseason WNIT. Besides Illinois State, only Southwest Missouri State (1994, 1998, 2003) has appeared more than once in the tournament.

2004 Preseason Women's NIT

First round -- Nov. 12

Illinois State (16-13) at Notre Dame (21-11)

Western Illinois (20-9) at Nebraska (18-12)

Davidson (16-12) at Duke (30-4)

South Florida (14-15) at Middle Tennessee State (24-8)

Bowling Green (21-10) at Ohio State (21-10)

Boston University (19-11) at St. Joseph's (22-11)

St. Mary's, Calif. (15-14) at Arizona (24-9)

McNeese State (11-17) at Rice (22-10)

Second round -- Nov. 14

Semifinals -- Nov. 17

Championship -- Nov. 20 or 21

[Illinois State University news release]

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