Tough schedule pays off --
A tough schedule and a solid finish helped vault Cumberland's Lady Bulldogs to an at-large berth in the 35th annual NAIA Women's Basketball Championships Thursday in Independence, Mo.
Coach Jeremy Lewis' squad (16-12) enters tournament play as one of four No. 8-seeds in the 32-team field and has been matched up with No. 3 overall seed Westminster College [Utah] (25-2) Thursday, March 19 at 2:15 p.m.
"With us right now, it doesn't matter who we play," Coach Lewis said Wednesday night. "We're excited that we've got the chance to go out there and compete."
Cumberland chalked up a 4-7 record against ranked opponents, having faced six teams who have earned berths in this year's field -- Campbellsville University, Martin Methodist, Lindsey Wilson, the University of Pikeville, Shawnee State and Freed-Hardeman - compiling a 4-8 mark against those clubs.
The Lady Bulldogs closed out the regular season with a win over Lindsey Wilson and a 69-66 upset of No. 22-ranked Pikeville in the MSC tournament.
"We wound up sweeping Lindsey Wilson during the regular season and that got us some votes from the NAIA raters," Lewis said, "the win over Pikeville solidified our program as a worthy of a bid."
The at-large bid marks the sixth appearance in the national tourney all-time for the program and the second under sixth-year Lewis, who led the Bulldogs to the Fab Four in 2013.
Senior forward Brittany Lawson severely sprained an ankle early in a 52-45 loss to Campbellsville March 7 in the MSC semifinals.
"She won't even attempt to practice until we get out to Independence on Monday," Lewis said.
Cumberland is one of four Tennessee-based NAIA squads that made the 32-team field. Freed-Hardeman (32-1) is the top overall seed, Bethel (30-3) is a two-seed while Martin Methodist (25-7) s a six-seed.