The University of Maine women’s basketball team will face the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The 23-9 Black Bears, winners of 14 of their last 15 and six in a row, earned their first NCAA berth since 2004 by beating Hartford 74-65 in the America East final on Friday afternoon.
Texas (26-6) earned a No. 2 seed while the Black Bears are a No. 15 seed. They will play in the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center which holds 16,540 fans.
It is the Black Bears’ eighth NCAA tournament appearance.
The Longhorns are 14-2 at the Erwin Center this season, their only losses coming to No. 1 Connecticut 75-71 on Jan. 15 and to No. 3 Baylor (93-87) on Feb. 19.
The winner plays the winner of the 3:30 p.m. game between seventh seed Arizona State (21-12) and 10th seed Nebraska (21-10) on Sunday.
Friday’s game will be shown live on ESPN2.
There was a large throng on hand at the Alfond Family Lounge at Alfond Arena to watch the NCAA tournament selection show.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great experience,” said UMaine junior guard Tanesha Sutton. “It’s a good opportunity. It’s a new environment. We’re going to play hard.”
“We’ve already played a lot of good teams,” said sophomore forward Fanny Wadling. “We believe in ourselves. We’ll give it a good shot.”
UMaine has played four NCAA tournament teams this season.
Mississippi State is a No. 1 seed, Ohio State is a No. 3 seed, former UMaine head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s Duke team is a No. 5 seed and Miami (Florida) earned a No. 8 seed.
UMaine lost all four contests.
“They’re a great team,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon. “They have a great point guard (Brooke McCarty) and some good post players. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
UMaine sophomore guard and leading scorer Blanca Millan said they know they are going to play an exceptional team but she pointed out that their grueling non-conference schedule prepared them for the America East portion of the schedule and will do likewise for the game with Texas.
She liked the idea of playing a team they haven’t played this season.
UMaine did play Texas on Dec. 29, 1992, in the Bell Atlantic Tournament in Piscataway, New Jersey, and lost 72-34.
Millan said she was surprised that they are going to Texas.
“We thought we were going to Tallahassee (Florida State) or Tennessee,” said Millan.
Texas lost to Baylor 77-69 in the Big 12 final eight days ago after beating Iowa State 81-69 in the quarterfinals and West Virginia 68-55 in the semis in Oklahoma City.
The 5-foot-4 McCarty is one of four Longhorns averaging double figures at 13.9 points per game. She also dishes out 4.5 assists.
Senior Ariel Atkins, a 5-11 guard, is averaging 14.8 points, 5-9 junior guard Lashann Higgs is at 12.9 ppg and 6-4 junior center-forward Jatarie White is at 10.5 ppg and 6.0 rebounds per game.