Cougars Selected to Play in Triple Crown Classic

PROVO -- The field for the 2002 Triple Crown Classic was announced today, and Brigham Young University is among the four women's basketball teams selected to play in the tournament.

On Dec. 21, 2002, BYU will play Alabama, and host New Mexico will be pitted against Louisiana Tech, one of the biggest names in women's college basketball. Both games will be played at The Pit in Albuquerque, N. M. The tentative schedule, pending nationwide TV schedules, has BYU-Alabama as the earlier game and Louisiana Tech-New Mexico in the following game. Both games are tentatively set for mid-day.

"We're really excited to play in the tournament," said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. "It's a good opportunity for us to play such quality teams."

BYU was one of the nation's surprises last season when the Cougars upset Florida and Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament and nearly beat Tennessee before being defeated in the Sweet 16 game, their best-ever showing.

BYU returns Mountain West Conference MVP Erin Thorn (17.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 apg) and Jennifer Leitner (12.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg) from its 24-9 team that captured the MWC Tournament title.

Alabama advanced to its 11th straight postseason appearance when it made it to the Elite Eight of the WNIT. Beth Vice (12.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Katie Sipe (8.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg) are back from that 19-12 team.

Louisiana Tech is one of just two schools nationwide to play in all 21 NCAA Tournaments. Barmore, with a 576-87 record, has the best winning percentage (.869) of all active Division I coaches, among both men's and women's programs. The Lady Techsters return two starters from their 25-5 season, including the Western Athletic Conference MVP in Cheryl Ford, a 6-foot-3 center who averaged 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds last season. Amber Obaze (5-8 guard; 12.1 ppg) joins her on the court, as does the WAC freshman of the year Erica Smith, a 5-10 guard who averaged 7.9 ppg and 2.6 rpg off the bench.

Barmore welcomes a nine-member recruiting class that was ranked No. 3 in the nation by All-Star Girls Report.

"As a longtime power in women's basketball, Louisiana Tech brings to the event one of the nation's premier programs, as well as one of the top coaches in the game in Leon Barmore," event director Brent Amick said.

New Mexico, which finished 2002 with a 22-9 record after a first-round loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, returns the majority of its teams and four of five starters. Jordan Adams (14.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Chelsea Grear (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) highlight the returning players.

"We are extremely happy to have these four quality teams participating in the Triple Crown Classic," Amick said. "Both games should be very competitive and entertaining. It'll be an outstanding day of women?s basketball."

In last year's Triple Crown Classic at Texas Tech, No. 3-ranked Vanderbilt was upset by Texas Tech, and Colorado defeated LSU.