Will play Bethel in first round
INDEPENDENCE, MO -- No stranger to tough competition, Cumberland will take on No. 4-ranked Bethel tonight (Wednesday) in the opening round of the 36th annual NAIA Women's Basketball Championships.
Action tips at 8 p.m. at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. Live play-by-play coverage can be heard online at www.gocumberlandathletics.com.
Tackling the 26-6 Lady Wildcats, CU comes in at 17-11 overall after a 61-52 loss to Lindsey-Wilson in the opening round of the Mid-South Conference tournament.
"We were a little apprehensive since the MSC tournament ended," said Cumberland Coach Jeremy Lewis. "The last NAIA poll had us at around 30 and after we lost to Lindsey-Wilson we were watching a lot of scores. We're fortunate and happy to still be playing."
Bethel marks Cumberland's 12th ranked opponent this season.
The Phoenix has compiled a 3-8 record against ranked foes, with five of the eight losses by six points or less and seven of the 11 games away from home.
"Bethel is a team we are familiar with," Lewis said, "we were in the old TranSouth with them. We know their style of play and the type of kids they recruit."
The Wildcats lead the series, 9-4, since 2006-07, including a 74-58 win in McKenzie on November 2, 2013.
Cumberland is making its seventh appearance in program history in the national tournament and the third in the last four seasons under coach Lewis.
"I think of all the years I've been coaching at this level, I think this is the most wide-open the tournament has been. I don't think there's that big monster out there like there has been in years past.
"The seeds can be thrown out the window and it's all about who can play their style of basketball on a given night."
Tonight marks the fifth appearance for the program in the NAIA Championships in the last 11 seasons.
CU was the national runner-up in 2007 and reached the Fab Four under Lewis in 2013.