MOUNT VERNON – The same four teams are back in the Midwest Conference Women's Basketball Tournament, but with a shuffling of the seeds and a change of venue this weekend at St. Norbert's Schuldes Sports Center in De Pere, Wis.
Cornell, which won the 2013 MWC Tournament title before its home fans, hits the road this time as the No. 2 seed for a shot at a second straight trip to nationals. The Rams finished as regular-season co-champions with St. Norbert at 16-2, but the Green Knights earned home-court advantage on a tiebreaker.
The Rams (20-3) carry a 12-game winning streak into Friday's 3:30 p.m. semifinal against third-seeded Monmouth (18-5). It's a rematch of last year's tournament final, won by Cornell, 63-52.
Friday's second semifinal pits top-seeded St. Norbert (19-4) against fourth-seeded Carroll (15-8). The championship game is 6 p.m. Saturday, with the winner receiving the MWC's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Cornell and Monmouth split two games in the regular season. The Fighting Scots won handily, 84-62, on Jan. 4 in Monmouth, Ill. The Rams rolled to a 69-56 home win on Jan. 22.
The Rams have won their last six contests away from Mount Vernon, which included a 92-90 double-overtime victory over Carroll on Feb. 8 to complete a regular-season sweep of the Pioneers.
Cornell split the two meetings with St. Norbert, with each team winning on the other's home court. The Rams recorded a 54-46 victory last month in De Pere, marking the Green Knights' lone conference home loss of the season.
The Rams enter the postseason No. 1 in the MWC in field goal percentage defense (34.0) and rebound margin (+10.0). Coach Brent Brase's squad stands second behind St. Norbert in scoring defense (57.3 ppg) and scoring margin (+18.6 ppg).
Junior Taylor Dicus heads the Ram attack, averaging a double-double at 15.8 points and 10.0 rebounds a game. She ranks second nationally with a 65.0 field goal percentage. Rikki Mulloy averages 13.8 points and shoots a league-best 40.0 percent (50-of-125) from 3-point range.
Monmouth, a winner of seven of its last eight, is led by Marla Willard's 16.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. The Fighting Scots are No. 1 in the MWC in blocked shots (4.5 bpg) and steals (12.9 spg).
Rams in the MWC Tourney – Cornell makes its sixth overall appearance in the MWC Tournament, which debuted in 1984 as a one-game playoff between North and South Division champions. The Rams claimed the 2013 crown, after falling in the title game four previous times (1988, 1987, 1986, 1984) to St. Norbert.
Rest of the field – St. Norbert owns a league-best 10 championships, the last coming in 2010-11. The Green Knights have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 10 times since 1983.
Monmouth won the 2012 conference tournament for its first and only trip to nationals. Carroll captured its lone MWC Tournament title in 2006. The Pioneers have gone to the NCAA Tournament five times, their last as an at-large qualifier in 2007.