Women's Basketball Set To Host Muhlenberg In NCAA Tournament First Round

GENESEO, N.Y. - SUNY Geneseo takes on Muhlenberg College in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Division III Tournament, Friday at 7 p.m.

The Knights received an at-large bid for the second consecutive year to their third-straight NCAA Tournament, after falling to New Paltz, 58-57, in the SUNYAC Championship. Muhlenberg earned an automatic bid, winning its third-straight Centennial Conference crown with a 74-61 victory over Gettysburg in the finals to qualify for its ninth tournament berth in the last 12 years. Meeting in the 2015 NCAA Tournament Second Round, Geneseo earned a 69-54 victory over Muhlenberg to advance to the third round in the two teams' only prior meeting. 

Geneseo sophomore forward McKenna Brooks finished with 15 points and nine rebounds and was named to the All-Tournament Team, but the Knights fell to New Paltz, 58-57, in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Championship. Senior guard Katie Durand led the team with 16 points to also garner All-Tournament honors, while senior guard Kara Houppert netted 10 points. Overcoming a six-points second half deficit, the Knights drew within one on a Durand jumper with 45 seconds left and had a shot to win it at the buzzer but New Paltz held on for the 58-57 victory.

Geneseo holds an 11-8 record in eight appearances in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. The Knights earned a first-round victory over FDU-Florham, 51-45, in last year's tournament, but fell to host Stevens Tech in the second round, 66-60. Geneseo hosted first and second round games in 2015, defeating Castleton, 84-40, and Muhlenberg, 69-54, before falling to FDU-Florham, 68-54, in the sectional semifinals at Tufts. The team has advanced as far as the sectional finals on two occasions, falling to Salem State, 76-65, in 1995, and to Scranton, 79-70, in 1993.

Head coach Scott Hemer was named the SUNYAC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year for the third-straight season after guiding the Knights to an undefeated regular season, their fifth-consecutive SUNYAC Championship game and third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Honored for the fourth time overall, Hemer enters the NCAA Tournament with a 191-85 mark at the helm. He led the Knights to their sixth 20-win season in the last seven years while four players - senior guards Kara Houppert and Katie Durand, senior forward Bridgit Ryan and sophomore forward McKenna Brooks - received SUNYAC All-Conference honors.

Geneseo boasts one of the nation's top defensive units, ranked among Division III's best teams in several categories. The Knights rank 14th in field goal percentage defense (32.1), fourth in points allowed per game (46.5) and 11th in total points allowed (1,256). Geneseo also ranks 20th in rebound margin (9.3),  grabbing 43.0 rebounds per game.

Geneseo has been one of the best teams in the nation at minimizing mistakes, taking care of the basketball and rarely giving opponents opportunities from the foul line. The Knights rank 14th in the nation in fewest turnovers (352), averaging 13.0 turnovers per game. The squad ranks seventh in fewest fouls committed (313) averaging just 11 personal fouls per game.

Geneseo has earned at least 20 wins in each of the last five seasons and six of its last seven. Since the 2012-13 season, Geneseo has posted a 113-28 record and an .801 winning percentage. The current streak of 20-win seasons is the second-longest in program history (1991-99).

Senior Kara Houppert landed First-Team All-SUNYAC honors and averages 8.9 points per game with 4.3 rebounds per game and 3.4 assists per game. She leads the conference with a program record three-point shooting percentage (46.2) and ranks second in the SUNYAC in assists (91). Houppert scored a season-high 18 points in both regular season meetings with New Paltz and tied a program record for three-point shooting percentage going 5-for-5 from beyond the arc against the Hawks (Feb. 11). In five previous NCAA Tournament games, Houppert averaged 9.6 points per game, including a 15-point effort at Stevens Tech (Mar. 5, 2016).

Sophomore forward McKenna Brooks was named Second Team All-SUNYAC due in large part to her late-season scoring spurt. Brooks averaged 4.8 points per game in November and December and then averaged 10.4 points per game in January and February. The forward ranks second in the SUNYAC in field goal percentage (47.8), sixth in steals (40), fifth in made free throws (78) and second in offensive rebounds (85). She netted a career-high 22 points in a 61-47 victory over Buffalo State (Jan. 24). 

The Geneseo starting lineup is made up of five seniors with each one making her third NCAA Tournament appearance. Seniors Kara Houppert, Katie Durand, Kayleigh Cavanaugh, Bridgit Ryan and Katie Vienneau have all played in five NCAA Tournament games, posting a 3-2 record over the past two seasons. One of the most experienced teams in the NCAA Tournament, the group has accumulated a total of 479 games played and 256 career starts. 

Geneseo has compiled a 3-1 record against teams it faced during the season that also made the 64-team NCAA Tournament field. The Knights posted a 2-1 record against SUNYAC foe New Paltz and earned an overtime victory over Empire 8 champion RIT, 62-60 (Jan. 17). Senior guard Katie Durand scored a team-high 15 against RIT while sophomore forward McKenna Brooks hit a buzzer-beating putback in overtime to win it. The Knights earned regular season wins over New Paltz at home, 66-47 (Dec. 2) and on the road, 56-39, (Feb. 11), but fell to the visiting Hawks in the SUNYAC Finals, 58-57.

Geneseo has faced Muhlenberg just once in program history, defeating the Mules, 69-55, in the 2015 NCAA Tournament Second Round.  Houppert scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds while Durand and Ryan each had three points in the contest. 

The Knights are 6-1 all-time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, including three straight wins, with their only first round loss coming in 1997 to William Smith College, 84-62. With a 9-2 overall home record in the NCAA Tournament, Geneseo has never lost a first round game at home (5-0). 

Muhlenberg earned its third-straight Centennial Conference title with a 69-54 victory over Gettysburg in the conference final. Junior guard Brandi Vallely leads the team in scoring (13.6) and assists per game (6.9) while junior forward Chelsea Gary averages 11.8 points per game and a team-best 8.6 rebounds per game. In 2015, Muhlenberg earned a win over Cabrini, 60-57, in the NCAA Tournament First Round before bowing out to the Knights, 69-54. Last season, the Mules earned an 81-72 win over St. John Fisher but fell to host Christopher Newport, 65-42, in the second round.