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Women’s basketball looking to get back into NCAA Tournament

Wichita+State+senior+Hannah+Mortimer+%282%29+looks+towards+her+team+Sunday+afternoon+in+Charles+Koch+Arena.+Mortimer+is+an+outgoing+senior+and+was+honored+in+a+ceremony+after+the+game.+%28Feb.+26%2C+2017%29
Wichita State senior Hannah Mortimer (2) looks towards her team Sunday afternoon in Charles Koch Arena. Mortimer is an outgoing senior and was honored in a ceremony after the game. (Feb. 26, 2017)

Wichita State senior Hannah Mortimer (2) looks towards her team Sunday afternoon in Charles Koch Arena. Mortimer is an outgoing senior and was honored in a ceremony after the game. (Feb. 26, 2017)

Matt Crow

Matt Crow

Wichita State senior Hannah Mortimer (2) looks towards her team Sunday afternoon in Charles Koch Arena. Mortimer is an outgoing senior and was honored in a ceremony after the game. (Feb. 26, 2017)

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With a 14-15 record to finish the regular season, the only chance for the Shockers to get back into the NCAA Tournament is to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the league’s automatic bid.

Whether the journey back to the NCAA Tournament happens this year or next year, head coach Linda Hargrove is preparing the team to complete their season with the best finish possible.

“For this year, we’re just going to finish as strong as we can finish and see what happens,” Hargrove said. “We’ll just have to play as well as we can play.”

WSU is a five-seed in the tournament, playing Southern Illinois at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The Shockers fell to SIU by 23 points in Carbondale and lost by three at Koch Arena.

If the Shockers could squeeze by the Salukis, WSU would likely have a date with No. 20 Drake and likely will see second seeded Northern Iowa if they make the championship game on Sunday.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” Hargrove said. “They’re both playing extremely well right now, particularly Drake. UNI does a lot of things defensively, so we have to be ready to make adjustments. We have to have a complete game from most of the players who play for us to be with either of those teams.”

The Shockers will need to remain consistent if they plan on dancing this March. Junior Rangie Bessard, WSU’s leading scorer and rebounder, is playing some of her best basketball of her career and earned All-MVC first team honors.

Senior TaQuandra Mike is coming off All-MVC defensive team honors, leading the Shockers in steals with an average of two steals per game.

Since Hargrove took over the team on Jan. 22, the Shockers have won eight out of their nine conference games. Junior guard Diamond Lockhart credits the turnaround with Hargrove’s ability to relate to players.

“Her just continuing to not make a lot of changes or adjustments to (the system) has helped us because we’re used to a certain way,” Lockhart said. “(She) speaks up when she feels like she needs to and implements stuff when she feels like it would be more best for us.”

Regardless of how the rest of the season turns out for the women’s basketball program, Athletic Director Darron Boatright is pleased with how Hargrove has turned the team’s season around. Hargrove won as many games (8) as last season’s team in her short tenure.

Boatright said that Hargrove has helped the women’s basketball program bring back its stability and that the future is in good hands.

“We thought this group had a base of talent all along and I’m not surprised at the success throughout the conference season,” Boatright said. “Linda has done a really good job of bringing a neutral observer and third set of eyes into the program, to see things for what they are. She’s brought a stability in a time of transition.”

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