W. Hoops races to 50th all-time NCAA playoff 'W'

Photo by Caleb Williams, D3Photography
Photo by Caleb Williams, D3Photography
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A 29-9 edge in bench points and six players scoring in double figures helped No. 6-ranked St. Thomas Women's Basketball pull away for a 81-51 victory over Chapman in Friday night's NCAA playoff game at Schoenecker Arena in St. Paul.

The Tommies (26-2), who never trailed, had only eight turnovers on the night against steady full-court pressure as they won their 19th in a row this season and their 50th all-time NCAA playoff game. UST is 50-24 in 25 NCAA tournament appearances, including an 18-6 record this decade, all in the last seven seasons.

Coach Ruth Sinn's squad helped hold Chapman to a season-low scoring night, 31-percent shooting from the floor, and only 22 second-half points. St. Thomas converted 52 percent from the floor and 12-of-12 at the foul line.

UST stormed to a 39-21 second-quarter lead before Chapman closed the last 4:30 of the half on an 8-2 run to cut the halftime deficit to 41-29. But the host team used a 17-7 run to push the lead to 58-36, and Chapman never got closer than 19 points thereafter.

The Tommies' Hannah Spaulding returned after a two-game injury absence. The conference Player of the Year had 10 points -- all in the first half -- and addded six boards as she surpassed 500 points on the season in 26 games. Senior Lauren Fischer led with 12 points, while Lucia Renikoff had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Maddie Wolkow scored eight of her 11 points in the second half, while freshman Kaia Porter scored 10 off the bench, all in the final two quarters. Freshman guard Madi Radtke matched her college high with 10 points, and Kaylie Brazil added nine.

Chapman (Calif.) (23-5), which had won 17 of its previous 18 games, was led by Lucy Criswell with 14 points and eight rebounds, and Jaime Hum-Nishikado with 13 points.

St. Thomas improved to 7-1 this season against 20-win teams and will get another 20-win foe on Saturday (7 p.m.) in No. 9-ranked Chicago. That's a rematch of a March 2017 second-round game on the Tommies' floor.

The Maroons won 70-46 in the earlier game over Wisconsin Lutheran to extend their season win streak to 23. They helped force 24 WLC turnovers, recorded a 21-6 scoring advantage from behind the arc, and used Miranda Burt's team-best 18 points. Jen Dowden scored a game-high 21 points for Wisconsin Lutheran (24-3), which lost a key player to injury in practice this week and lost another starter to injury in the first half.

Saturday night's winner advances to the Sweet Sixteen round March 9-10.


Live video for Saturday's game can be accessed here

Live stats for WLC vs. Chicago here

Live stats for Chapman vs. UST here


Here are some quick pre-tourney notes on each team:


U. of Chicago Maroons (23-2)

  • University of Chicago is located on the south side of the city in the Hyde Park neighborhood.
  • UChicago is riding a 21-game winning streak, tied for the second-longest in program history. The 2011-12 team won its first 27 games of the season.
  • The Maroons rank 12th in NCAA Division III with 78.2 points per game.  Their scoring margin this season is +17.5 PPG.
  • Sophomore guard Mia Farrell ranks 20th in the nation with 129 free throws made – the second-most in school history for a season.
  • Junior forward Olariche Obi (12.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG) has totaled 14 double-doubles this season, and 18 games with double-digit rebounds. Obi also leads the team in steals (2.7 SPG) and blocks (0.9 BPG).
  • UChicago's defense has held 10 teams under 34 percent shooting from the field this season.
  • Over the past two seasons, the Maroons have beaten 20 opponents by at least 20 points.
  • UChicago is forcing 22.6 turnovers per game.


Wisconsin Lutheran Warriors (24-2)

  • Wisconsin Lutheran College is located in Milwaukee, Wis.
  • The Warriors are making their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
  • WLC enters the tournament with a 24-3 overall record and an 18-2 mark in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
  • Wisconsin Lutheran allows just 47.9 points per game, the seventh-fewest in the country.
  • The Warriors recorded a season-long 17-game winning streak, starting with a win over No. 10 Wash U.
  • WLC is led by NACC Player of the Year Jen Dowden, who averages 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.
  • Wisconsin Lutheran was ranked No. 25 in the week 9 D3hoops.com Top 25 poll, the first time any NACC women's basketball program received a national ranking.
  • Senior Caitlin Knueppel holds the NACC record for career three-pointers made with 249.
  • Head coach Klay Knueppel has 275 career wins in his 14th season.


Chapman Panthers (23-4)

  • Chapman is located in Orange, Calif. and is making its 13th NCAA Division III Tournament appearance (ninth under head coach Carol Jue). This Chapman's first trip to the tournament as an AQ. After being an independent for 18 years, the Panthers joined the SCIAC in 2012-13 and won their first SCIAC Tournament title this year.
  • The Panthers embarked on a 15-game win streak from Jan. 1 until the regular season finale on Feb. 17. They have lost just one game in 2018, winning 17 of the final 18 games.
  • Sophomore Lucy Criswell was SCIAC Athlete of the Year – scored 31 points in semifinal win over Cal Lutheran.
  • Junior Jaryn Fajardo was SCIAC Tournament MVP – scored 25 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds in championship game – 9 assists and 0 turnovers in semifinal. Her 2.49 A/TO ratio ranks seventh in the country.
  • Tied for regular season championship with CMS at 15-1 in the SCIAC. CMS won #1 seed on a coin flip. Chapman won tournament championship with double overtime 70-61 win at CMS.
  • Coach Carol Jue and staff voted SCIAC Coaching Staff of the Year for third year in a row. Coach Jue won her 300th career game earlier this season.
  • Senior Jaime Hum-Nishikado, the current school record-holder, ranks 4th among active D3 players with 259 career made three-pointers. She surpassed 1,000 career points this year, becoming just the eighth player reach 1,000 points in Chapman's D3 history.


U of St. Thomas Tommies (25-2)

  • The Toms have never played Wisconsin Lutheran. They last played Chapman eight years ago in California, an 80-75 win. They have faced the Maroons of the University of Chicago twice in the last 11 seasons, both in the NCAA playoffs, losing in 2008 and winning 73-69 last season at home in the NCAA second round after trailing by eight in the third quarter.
  • Coach Ruth Sinn's team went 31-1 and tied for third in the nation last year with three senior starters. After a 1-1 opening weekend this season, the Tommies have won 24 of their last 25.
  • St. Thomas is in the NCAA women's basketball playoffs for the 25th year, all in the last 35 seasons, with a 49-24 all-time record. UST won the 1991 national championship and has had five other Final Four Trips between 1995-2017.
  • The Tommies have competed in either the NCAA or conference playoffs in 31 of the last 32 seasons. They have a 23-9 all-time record in the conference postseason playoffs, which began in 2001.
  • St. Thomas and Amherst were the lone Division III institutions to send both their men and women into the NCAA basketball playoffs during a six-year span from 2012-2017. That streak ended this season when the Tommie men – the 2016 national champions -- had a rare 14-12 finish and didn't advance.
  • St. Thomas is 6-1 this season against 20-win teams -- losing to once-beaten and No. 5-ranked Bowdoin in its second game of the season; beating No. 12-ranked George Fox in November at home; and in MIAC play sweeping No. 25 St. Ben's and going 3-0 vs. 22-win Gustavus.
  • A different player has led St. Thomas in scoring in each of its last four games.
  • The Tommies have only two seniors on a 18-player roster – starters Lauren Fischer and Maddie Wolkow. They have been part of two NCAA Elite 8 teams, 8-for-8 in conference regular-season and playoff championships, and 112 victories. Their 112-8 four-year record is the best for a senior class in program history. 
  • Fischer has played in 112 games, contributing 812 points, 466 rebounds and 168 treys. Wolkow has played in 114 games, and has converted 39% behind the arc, with 542 points (124 treys), 195 assists, 109 steals, 134 rebounds, and UST is 46-2 in games she has started in her era.
  • St. Thomas likely will bring a 54-game victory streak against conference opponents into next season. The Toms also have a 29-game road win streak dating back to the 2015-16 season -- third longest in all of NCAA basketball (men or women).
  • Junior Lucia Renikoff has sank at least one 3-point basket in all 27 games this season.
  • Junior center Hannah Spaulding – a first-year starter and the MIAC Player of the Year -- leads all conference players in scoring at 19.9 ppg and leads all NCAA women in field-goal proficiency at 71.4 percent. She has 498 points, 208 rebounds and 61 blocked shots in 25 games.
  • The Tommies have won seven consecutive -- and eight of the last nine -- MIAC playoff titles. They have won either the league regular-season or playoff title each of the last nine winters.
  • St. Thomas became the first program to win four consecutive solo MIAC championships in the league's 35-year history of women's hoops. St. Ben's had a co-championship in a five-year title run last decade.
  • The Tommies' defense was lacking in a 80-68 November loss to ranked Bowdoin and a 77-72 December loss to Luther. But St. Thomas is allowing under 50 points a game during its current 18-game win streak, and 53.0 ppg on the season.
  • The Tommies rank in the top eight in Division III in 3-point proficiency (sixth, 38.3%), free-throw proficiency (78.6%) and field-goal proficiency (third, 46.9).
  • St. Thomas lost once last season -- in the Final Four to eventual NCAA runner-up Tufts (30-3 finisher). This season, their lone defats have come against 24-2 Bowdoin and 19-10 Luther.