UWSP women’s basketball will host NCAA Tournament this weekend
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) women’s
basketball team received a Pool C (at-large bid) to the NCAA Division III
Tournament and will host first and second round games at the Berg Gymnasium
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Berg, the 20th-ranked
Pointers (20-7, 10-4) will take on DePauw (Ind.) (22-6) at Friday, March 4, after second-ranked
George Fox University
plays St. Norbert (21-4) at
The winners will meet at Saturday, March 5, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on
“I’m really happy for our kids to get back into the
tournament,” said UWSP women’s basketball head coach Shirley Egner. “It’s been
two long years, and we made it a point of emphasis at the beginning of the year
that we wanted to do whatever we could do to position ourselves to be playing
in the NCAA Tournament and put this program back where it deserves to be.
“We did that, and that’s really, really exciting,” she said.
“It’s great to be at home, we just really need the community to come out and
support us on Friday and help us beat those DePauw Tigers.”
After finishing behind Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic
Conference (WIAC) Champion UW-River Falls (22-5, 12-2) and UW-Oshkosh (22-5, 11-3) in
the regular season, UWSP entered the WIAC Tournament last week as the
third-seeded team, and opened with a 55-44 win at home over sixth-seeded UW-Stout
(10-16, 4-10) Tuesday, Feb. 23.
The Pointers went on the road for the WIAC Semifinals and
lost 38-21 to second-seeded and 11th-ranked UW-Oshkosh Thursday, Feb. 25, and Oshkosh
followed with a 65-64 win at top-seeded and 13th-ranked River Falls in the WIAC
Tournament Championship Game Saturday, Feb. 27, to earn an automatic bid to the
NCAA Division III Tournament.
When the NCAA Division III Tournament brackets were released
Monday, Feb. 29, River Falls, UWSP and UW-Whitewater (19-7, 8-6) each received one
of the 20 at-large bids to give the WIAC four teams in the tournament, while
Oshkosh, River Falls and UWSP were selected to host for the first two rounds
“I never saw it coming,” said Egner. “I never saw us
hosting, I really felt like they were going to ship us either to Wash U.
or to Hope.
“I knew St. Thomas
couldn’t host because of their men (having alternate year preference) and I
knew that we couldn’t go to Oshkosh
or we couldn’t go to River,” she said. “But I think our tradition of hosting
previously, and the outstanding job that we did with the Final Four (in 2014) really
caught the committee’s attention. And we were rewarded for that.”
The Pointers will play in the first round Friday night
against DePauw, which ranks ninth in the nation in scoring defense (49 points
per game) and is led this season by 5-9 sophomore guard Emily Budde (13.7
points per game), 5-7 freshman guard Maya Howard (10.1 points) and 6-0 senior
forward Abby Keller (8.1 points, 7.3 rebounds)
“They’re a great basketball team,” said Egner. “They’re
well-coached and they’re disciplined.
“They needed to win their Conference Tournament to get into
the tournament, they weren’t going to get an at-large bid in their Region,” she
said. “And they did what they needed to do to get into the tournament.”
In the other first round matchup, George Fox will take on
St. Norbert at
George Fox, which beat UWSP 71-63 in the Sweet 16 at Berg Gymnasium
in 2011, is led this season by 6-0 senior forward Justine Benner (17.3 points,
6.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists), 5-7 senior wing player Sammy Naluai (11.7 points, 4
rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.2 steals), 6-3 sophomore forward Kaitlin Jamieson (9.7
points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks) and 5-5 junior point guard Kim Frost (8
points, 2.7 assists, 3.4 steals).
St. Norbert, which lost at home to the Pointers 67-62 Jan. 2,
is led this season by 5-8 junior guard Regan Carmichael (12.2 points, 5.3
rebounds, 4.1 assists), 5-10 junior guard/forward Brianna Byrne (10.8 points)
and 5-11 senior guard Stephanie Weigman (10.3 points, 4.6 rebounds).
“George Fox is undefeated, they’ve been here, so this isn’t
a strange place for them to come,” said Egner. “They’re a very, very
well-coached team, very disciplined and they don’t beat themselves. They’re
used to traveling in the NCAA Tournament, regardless of where they go, because
of their geographic location.
“And (head coach) Connie (Tilley) has done an outstanding
job with St. Norbert,” said Egner. “They went through their regular season
undefeated (in conference) and got pushed a little bit in the Conference
Tournament Championship Game by Cornell (in a 56-53 win).”
The Pointers finished second in the WIAC in scoring defense
(54.7 points) this season and are led by First Team All-WIAC 5-6 junior guard
Lauren Anklam (10.8 points, 2.8 assists), First Team All-WIAC 5-10 senior post
player Allie Micelli (10.6 points, 8.7 rebounds), 5-7 sophomore guard Mickey
Roland (6.1 points, 4.1 rebounds), 5-7 sophomore guard Lexi Roland (5.9 points)
and 6-2 senior post player Joann Wolfenberg (4.8 points, 4.3 rebounds).
“We’re scrappy,” said Egner. “We’re not big, we work really
hard, and we’re blue collar.
“Defensively, we want to get after it,” she said.
“(Offensively), we have to take care of the basketball, we have to play smart,
we can’t have empty possessions, and we’ve got to score the basketball.”
The winners Friday will meet in the second round at Saturday to advance to the
Sweet 16 next weekend at a location to be determined, where they will face the
winner of a pod that includes sixth-ranked Texas-Tyler (27-1), UC Santa Cruz
(15-11), Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (22-5) and Trinity (Texas) (22-5).
“This time of year, there’s no easy route to get to where
you want to go, and we have a tough pod,” said Egner. “But we’re playing at
home and that should help us, especially if our fans come out and really
support us. They’re going to see some great games.
“But we’re going to need a lot of heart, a lot of passion
and grittiness,” she said. “We need to stay together, we know it’s not going to
be pretty, and we’re OK with that. Whatever it takes, survive and advance.”