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SMC Basketball: Belles to continue non-conference slate

Peter Steiner | Thursday, November 17, 2011

After upsetting No. 25 Wheaton 66-63 in their season opener, the Belles look to carry that momentum on the road at this weekend’s Manchester Tip-off Tournament.

By creating turnovers and outrebounding their opponent, the Belles were able to take 26 more shots than the Thunder and claim the victory. Tuesday night’s win over Wheaton was especially satisfying as it marked the first game since the 2008-09 season that Saint Mary’s defeated a ranked opponent on its home court.

However, the Belles’ challenging nonconference schedule does not stop with Wheaton. They will face off against tournament host Manchester, who is coming off a close, hard-fought loss to Calvin, on Friday night.

“Manchester had the opportunity to beat Calvin [on Tuesday] night, who is No. 2 or No. 6 depending on what poll you look at in the country,” Belles coach Jenn Henley said. “They are playing very well right now and they are going to have a lot of confidence.”

In the second round, the Belles will meet either No. 16 Denison or Baldwin-Wallace, either of whom will provide a tough contest, Henly said.

“Traditionally, both teams are very strong,” she said. “Denison made it to the NCAA tournament last year. Baldwin-Wallace is usually top three, top four in their conference, and they’ve been to the NCAA tournament before. There is no weak team in this tournament by any means.”

With many key players returning for the Belles following last year’s third-place conference finish, they are hoping these early season tests will prepare them for conference play.

“I think just based on the makeup of the competition we are going to see is going to prepare us for the conference,” Henley said. “We’ve got a very tough nonconference schedule and that was done by me on purpose to prepare us for conference.”

The tournament begins Friday when the Belles take on Manchester at 8 p.m., followed by the consolation and championship games Saturday.