WACO, Texas – The Waco Regional is loaded with top-notch point guards on each of the four teams.
That much is evident whether you’re talking about Odyssey Sims of Baylor, Brittany Boyd of California, Erin Rooney of Fordham or the duo of Micah Jones and Kendall Noble of Western Kentucky. Sims and Boyd are two of the final five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, Rooney is the only First Team All-Atlantic 10 selection in program history, and Western Kentucky’s Jones and Noble both rank in the top 20 in the Sun Belt in scoring and the top seven in assists per game.
However, the talk of Friday’s media sessions at the Ferrell Center on the campus of Baylor University was the first round matchup between Boyd and Rooney.
The two starting point guards play similar roles for their respective teams. Boyd, a junior from Berkeley, Calif., averages 14.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the Golden Bears. Rooney, a redshirt senior from Christchurch, New Zealand, puts up 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Rams.
Together, Boyd and Rooney are two of the three players in all of Division 1 women’s basketball that averages at least 14 points, six rebounds and five assists per game – the other being Dequesha McClanahan of Winthrop.
High praise for both was given by their respective coaches Friday morning as the two teams prepared to practice in Waco for the first time.
“Brittany’s had a tremendous year on so many levels,” California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said Friday. “Brittany, Reshanda (Gray) and Afure (Jemerigbe), who were very important pieces last year now had to play kind of the star roles, which were not only performing, but making sure other people were ready to perform and being leaders, and no one more so than Brittany. I would probably say she is the most important player on our team. She can control the game in a lot of ways. She is obviously a point guard who can score. She’s big and strong and physical and fast, and defensively she’s one of the best at stealing the basketball in the country. Erin Rooney is similar in that she is not just a shooter or a distributor or a passer. She really controls tempo for them. Similarly to Brittany, you can look at a game where maybe the stats aren’t necessarily eye-popping, but she keeps control of the game.”
“We just played a Dayton team in the A-10 Championship that size-wise was very similar (with) pretty athletic guards (but) not as experienced as or maybe as savvy as Brittany is,” Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley added. “I think Erin is very disciplined. I think she is more of a disciplined guard, and I think Brittany can really create her own shot and she does a great job of getting other people shots as well. In so many ways what they both do for their teams is very similar.”
Growing up on different continents and then playing collegiate basketball on different coasts, one could forgive the two point guards if they were not too familiar with each other before preparing for this weekend’s games. But once the tournament bids were announced and the Cal-Fordham game was set, the two guards got a crash-course in getting ready to take on another elite point guard in front of the biggest stage in women’s college basketball.
“She’s a very good rebounding guard as well,” Rooney commented about Boyd. “I think a lot of it for me just comes off of me doing my job. It’s going to be a tough matchup, but it will be fun.”
Boyd echoed the sentiment when asked about her counterpart from Fordham.
“She’s a really good player, and I’m excited to get to play against someone who puts up the same numbers as I do,” Boyd said. “It’s very exciting, and I just think being in the tournament is very exciting. I don’t want to be overly-excited, but I am just ready to play.”
The only thing that’s left to do is to put on a show for the crowd at the Ferrell Center and for those watching at home on ESPN2 Saturday afternoon. Gottlieb provided a breakdown of what fans can expect when the two lineup against each other on the court.
“Their styles of play are very, very different,” Gottlieb concluded. “Brittany is fast and explosive and has kind of the ‘wow’ factor whereas I think Erin is so good but in a subtle kind of way. She just does the right thing and makes the smart efficient play. I think it’ll be a good matchup of teams that contrast in styles, but it’ll be an interesting point guard matchup.”
Tip-off between the Bears and Rams is scheduled for 1 p.m. (PT) and will air live on ESPN2 in the San Francisco Bay Area and on WatchESPN and ESPN3.com for those across the country.