Women’s basketball: Martin, Thornton look to raise their game in NCAA Tournament

Juliana Nikac and Josh Silverman

359 days ago, this happened.

It is the most prominent victory in Quinnipiac women’s basketball history when it beat Miami 85-78 in the Round of 32 last year.

Fast-forward through a season that saw Quinnipiac go undefeated in conference play to ultimately earn a nine seed in the NCAA Tournament where they will face, once again, the University of Miami.

However, things are different now. Players have graduated and others have improved. Two players who have experienced the ladder are Quinnipiac junior guards Brittany Martin and Edel Thornton.

Martin never checked into last year’s matchup with Miami while Thornton logged 14 minutes, chucking up two shots and missing both.

This season, however, the duo is ready to compete on the biggest stage.

“I think last year, even when I did come in, it was to give a burst or to do what I could when I was out there,” Thornton said. “This year, I’m focused more on contributing all the time, knowing that I have to step up and take the leadership role from the guards that left.”

Both Thornton and Martin have increased their shooting percentages from behind the arc and from the field this season in addition to tallying more points. Both their improved stats and overall play have drawn praise from their head coach.

“I just think because they’ve grown with another solid year of junior experience and both individually have helped us win games this year,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “This is just another great opportunity for them to get this experience on the biggest stage in March.”

Martin played 564 minutes her freshman year. When her numbers slipped last season, so did her playing time. In the past year, she’s grown, and taken those negative experiences and learned from them.

“If I’m not playing I can’t let that affect everyone else so I have to keep a positive attitude,” Martin said. “I’m seeing different things from the bench that they aren’t seeing from the floor. It’s kind of like we’re all mini coaches on the bench.”

For Thornton, she’s seen both her play and basketball IQ completely improve over the last season.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a bit quicker and I can read plays better than I did last year,” Thornton said. “I don’t just run somewhere crazily or make a bad pass. I’m more consistent with not turning the ball over, shot selection and making the right read at the right time.”

Playing Miami a year removed from beating it has given Quinnipiac a new sense of confidence. With that comes a higher level of play.

“From that game, we all know what we are capable of doing and we came into this year trying to go further,” Thornton said. “I think this year, just seeing everyone’s confidence and competitiveness increase. Everybody knows what it takes to get there.”

And now the stage is set. Though the team doesn’t want to get ahead of itself, it’s aware that playing in UConn’s region means there might be an overlap in fans.

“We’re going to be playing in front of so many fans and it’s going to be so loud,” Martin said. “They’re all going to be rooting for us because they want to see two Connecticut teams play against each other.”

The guard duo will most likely split time with Quinnipiac’s starters and each player will play a huge role in the school notching another Tournament win in March. Both of their stats have improved, but the season gets reset on the big stage. They’ll have to bring their A-game when Quinnipiac and Miami tip off Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Storrs, Connecticut.