Storylines – vs Wheeling Jesuit
Defending MEC Tournament champion Wheeling Jesuit stands on the cusp of a NCAA Tournament berth. The Cardinals entered this week's tournament ranked eighth in the most up-to-date Atlantic Region rankings. To get back to the tournament, Debbie Buff's team will have to knock off UVa-Wise for the third time this season. The Cardinals held off a late rally by the Cavaliers to win 64-59 in Wheeling before holding UVa-Wise to 44 points in a 72-44 win at the Prior Center. In its quarterfinal win, Wheeling Jesuit received a game-high 19 points off the bench from Chanelle Moore while holding Shepherd to 29 percent shooting in a 78-49 victory. Sophomore guard Monica Burns leads the offensive attack for Wheeling Jesuit. Burns averaged 15.3 points per game while shooting 93.9 percent from the foul line en route to All-MEC First-Team accolades. Burns averaged 21 points and three assists in a pair of wins over UVa-Wise in the regular season. Keeping the Cardinals off the free throw line will be crucial for the Cavs. Wheeling Jesuit leads the league in free throw percentage at 77.2 percent and made more free throws (453) than its opponents attempted (400) in the regular season. The quarterfinal win was the fourth consecutive tournament win for Buff's team who has won six of its first eight MEC Tournament games.
UVa-Wise will attempt to do something it has yet to do since joining the Mountain East Conference, win multiple games at the conference tournament. Kristin Kunzman's team outlasted West Virginia State 72-70 in the quarterfinals to win its tournament opener for the fourth consecutive season behind a 23-point showing from senior forward Kayla Carey. Fellow senior Makenzie Cluesman added 15 points, five rebounds and eight assists while four other Cavs scored at least six points to hold off the Yellow Jackets. Senior guard Taylor Sandidge scored eight points in the win, allowing the Waynesboro, Va. native to become just the eighth player in program history to eclipse 1,400 career points (1,406). The 5-foot-4 Sandidge is five points away from passing former Cav Chelsea Cluesman for seventh on the school's all-time scoring list. With four made 3-pointers in Thursday's win, Cluesman extended her single-season school record for made triples to 88. The Jonesville, Va. native has now made at least one 3-pointer in 30 consecutive games. With the win Thursday, UVa-Wise has now won at least 21 games for only the fifth time in program history. The semifinal appearance in a conference tournament is the first for UVa-Wise since being a NAIA Division II member in the Appalachian Athletic Conference in 2010. The program hasn't reached a final since 2006 when the team claimed the AAC crown.