<
>

Quinnipiac takes 12-seed, good omens and great shooting into Sweet 16

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Quinnipiac Bobcats coach Tricia Fabbri believes in omens. And why not?

She was staying on the 16th floor of the Marriott Coconut Grove Courtyard this weekend, and now she's going to the Sweet 16, coaching a program that had never won an NCAA tournament game before Saturday.

The 12th-seeded Bobcats (29-6) stunned the fourth-seeded Miami Hurricanes 85-78 on Monday night. Morgan Manz came off the bench to score a career-high 22 points, making 6 of 8 3-pointers. And, as a team, the Bobcats made 15 of 26 3-pointers.

This came just a little more than 48 hours after the Bobcats upset fifth-seeded Marquette, making it two straight surprises.

"It's honestly addicting," Quinnipiac guard Adily Martucci said of the wins. "There is something about this tournament. You just want more and more and more. And we're going to try to get some more."

The next opportunity comes on Saturday (ESPN/WatchESPN, 4 p.m. ET), when the Bobcats play top-seeded South Carolina in Stockton, California.

By Saturday -- if it hasn't happened already -- Quinnipiac will be called "Cinderella" as often as it's called the Bobcats. If not more.

How did it happen?

The Bobcats played smart basketball. Miami coach Katie Meier, with superior size and athleticism on her side, didn't give her team much of a chance to play the Bobcats straight up, going to a full-court press early in the game.

That played into the Bobcats' strengths. This is a Quinnipiac team that passes the ball extremely well -- the Bobcats had 24 assists and just 13 turnovers on Monday -- and repeatedly broke the press and either got layups or open 3-pointers.

Six different Bobcats made 3-pointers, but nobody did it better than Manz, a senior from Southbury, Connecticut, who has been a bit of a reluctant shooter.

"My teammates and coaches are more confident than I am in my shot," Manz said. "I just did what my coaches have been asking me to do for the past four years.

"I just let it fly because we had nothing to lose."

The Hurricanes (24-9), playing on their home court, had a lot to lose. And did.

There were three Hurricanes seniors -- all with more than 1,000 career points -- who were playing their final college game. Adrienne Motley, Jessica Thomas and Keyona Hayes leave Miami as No. 6, No. 16 and No. 21, respectively, on the Hurricanes career scoring chart.

Thomas had a game-high 25 points on Monday, one more than her previous career high.

"If I talk about my seniors, I'm not going to get through it," Meier said, tearing up. "They are just awesome.

"Maybe I'll text you about how I feel about them. Special people. I love them. We will be in each other's lives forever. This is not the end of our journey. But it is the last time I have the honor of coaching them."

Thomas was emotional, too. When the final horn sounded, she stayed on the court, on one knee, for several minutes as teammates tried to console her.

While that was happening, the Bobcats players and coaches ran to the locker room to celebrate. Fabbri was showered with water -- not that she minded.

"I was hot, I got cooled down," Fabbri said. "I was happy to get it."

And that's just it with this Bobcats team -- nothing fazes them.

Miami took a four-point lead in the first quarter and even had a five-point possession -- basket, foul, missed free throw, offensive rebound and 3-pointer.

That's as crushing as it gets for one trip down the court.

But Quinnipiac came right back, led 25-22 after the first quarter and never trailed again. They led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter. The Canes cut their deficit to one point late, but Martucci hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 57 seconds left to put the Bobcats up 78-74, and that pretty much sealed it.

"That was a great, phenomenal [performance]," Meier said of the Bobcats. "Boy, did they find [their shooters]. On a couple of occasions, perhaps, we had a lack of discipline, over-excited.

"But it still takes incredible composure to hit it. We were scrambling, and they stayed with a calm mind."

The Bobcats were indeed composed.

"There is something about this tournament -- you just want more and more and more. And we're going to try to get some more."

Adily Martucci

They were slighted by Marquette on the day the NCAA pairings were announced. One player said she had never heard of Quinnipiac.

Now they know, and now America is finding out about this team that had no player on the All-MAAC first-team and no player averaging more than 10.6 points.

They start four sophomores and one senior, and it seems like every one of them can handle and every one of them can shoot.

Martucci is the lone senior starter, and the super sophomore class includes Jennifer Fay, who was the star of the Marquette game, Aryn McClure, Paula Strautmane and Edel Thornton.

Manz leads a bench that also includes the coach's daughter, Carly Fabbri, and Sarah Shewan, who had 11 points on Monday.

This group took down Marquette and took down Miami. And between those two events, it handled a fire alarm that went off at about 1 a.m. Monday in their Coconut Grove hotel.

"We made a joke about it because it did happen during the MAAC tournament, too," Martucci said. "We were all outside, waiting to get back in [on Monday morning]. 'OK, this has happened before. Déjà vu.' But it panned out."

Who knows what will happen in Stockton. Maybe hotel rooms on the eighth floor this time around with another untimely evacuation. South Carolina is hurting and Quinnipiac is riding high. And Fabbri knows she has something special with this group.

"Anytime you can get a new name moving forward in a bracket, it creates excitement," she said. "Ultimately, that is what March Madness is all about. Those upsets that everyone looks forward to and the buzz -- we are happy to do our part."