Wound up too tightly

"We prepared all week for playing two games," Mitchell said Friday.,”

AUSTIN, Texas – Prior to the 2007 NCAA tournament, Marquette women's basketball coach Terri Mitchell was one of the firmest adherents to the take-it-one-game-at-a-time philosophy. Her attitude changed when the tournament rolled around.

"We prepared all week for playing two games," Mitchell said Friday. "A two-game tournament, we don't talk about one game, we've talked about a two-game tournament all week long, and that just works for this team."

Her players took that idea one step further. They didn't want to play two games at the Frank Erwin Center. They wanted to pick up a pair of victories at the Texas Longhorns' arena.

"We want to win the first two games," sophomore guard Krystal Ellis said in the March 8 Tribune. "We want to win that first weekend and be the first (Marquette women's basketball) team to make it to Sweet 16."

A few paragraphs later in that story, assistant coach Michelle Nason had an even more telling quote.

"When we want something really bad, we tend to get a little uptight," she said.

Nason could not have been more prophetic.

Marquette's desire to play next weekend prevented the team from getting there. Instead, it was Oklahoma who advanced to the Sweet 16 in Dayton, Ohio, with a 78-47 victory over Marquette.

"I think we wanted it so badly it paralyzed us," Mitchell said after the game. "I think we've talked about it so much. We talked about wanting to win a two-game tournament.

"We kept it simple, and I do think there is a psychology in it when you want something so bad that it slows you down and you're thinking too much."

At times Marquette's over-eagerness to advance had the exact opposite effect. When Marquette had the ball on offense it rushed things and settled for quick shots. Why?

"We wanted it so bad," Ellis said after the game.

The frenetic play was also an offshoot of the predicament the team found itself in during the second half. When trailing by double digits, it's intuitive that you need to score a lot of points in a hurry. That mindset can do even more damage.

"We just weren't making the extra pass," Mitchell said.

Mitchell tried to change things at halftime. She said she got after her team in the locker room, but it didn't do much good.

"I went in very angry to shake them out because I felt that they were back on their heels," Mitchell said.

"You go from kind of yelling them to regrouping, be technical about what their zone was pushing us out and how we needed to attack the gaps. And then it was like the same exact thing happened, they hit a few big shots and the lead quickly went to 20."