Gene's Blog: Consistency, not rankings, is WBB's focus
January 17, 2012
Sophomore Maggie Weiers (center) has helped the Tommies reel off 13 consecutive wins. (Mike Ekern photo)
For the first time in 10 seasons, covering 146 weekly polls, Tommie women's basketball has cracked the top-25 national rankings. UST entered this week poll at No. 22 by the Women's Basketball Coaches' Association (WBCA) and at No. 24 by D3hoops.com.
The Tommies' lone defeat came on the road in the season-opener at No. 7-ranked UW-Stevens Point.
St. Thomas' current 13-game win streak is the program's longest since the 1999-2000 Tommies won 26 in a row en route to a third-place national finish.
Coach Ruth Sinn's Tommies (13-1 overall, 11-0 MIAC) stayed unbeaten in the conference as they recently pulled out two tight road victories in a 72-hour stretch.
UST used a game-closing 7-2 run on Saturday to edge Concordia-Moorhead, 49-48, capped by sophomore Kelly Brandenburg's baseline drive and basket with seven seconds left.
On Monday night at Bethel, the Tommies saw their 21-point second-half lead evaporate, but they held on to win 68-66 when the Royals missed potential tying and winning shots in the final nine seconds.
"It's good to learn lessons when you're winning rather than losing," Sinn said. "We have to learn from games like Monday and keep up the intensity all game."
St. Thomas holds a one-game lead over Gustavus at the halfway point of the 22-game MIAC race. There's no opportunity to relax. Third-place St. Olaf visits Schoenecker Arena on Wednesday ngiht, and playoff hopeful St. Mary's tests UST on Saturday in Winona.
The Tommies' .751 free-throw percentage is on school-record pace, and they also are shooting 46.2 percent from the floor. They have allowed just 48.2 points defensively. Only one player, sophomore Taylor Young (13.3 ppg), is averaging more than a dozen points a contest, but the Toms are getting more than 30 points a game from bench players.
UST is 6-0 in a 15-day stretch to start January. The Toms have five more games over the last 14 days of the month.
Sinn said the rankings and win streak are fun milestones, but the team has a bigger goal.
"Our focus all season, every time we hit the floor, has been consistency," she said, "and for the most part we've done that, especially on the defensive end. We're trying to learn from mistakes we made last season. We were too inconsistent, and it cost a chance to get into the NCAA playoffs."
Ekpo, Hutton sharp
Two Tommie men's All-Americans had fast starts to their 2012 indoor track and field seasons.
In last Friday's season-opening competition at the Anderson Fieldhouse, junior Eyo Ekpo cleared 6-9 in the high jump -- his indoor career best and the third-best indoor leap in school history. Ekpo also soared 46-10 1-4 to win the triple jump.
Senior Mike Hutton ran a school-record 2:27.09 to win the 1000 meters. Hutton pushed the pace alone and won by nearly nine seconds. As a comparison, Hutton ran the fastest 1000 among MIAC indoor runners in 2011 with a best of 2:30.29. The old UST record was 2:27.15 in 2009 set by All-American Brian Sames.
Hutton now holds St. Thomas school records in the 600, 800 and 1000 indoors, and the 800 and 4x800 outdoors.
UST, ranked 12th in the USTFCCCA top-25 power rankings, is home Friday afternoon for another men's and women's invitational meet.
The Tommies will send two All-Americans to compete at the Friday-Saturday University of Minnesota Jack Johnson Invite -- Hutton will run the 800, and Ben Sathre will compete in the 5,000.
PHOTOS: Top, Eyo Ekpo; below, Mike Hutton
Sathre, the NCAA Division III cross country champion last November, will chase a 19-year-old UST indoor record in the 5,000 of 14:23.92.
Hutton's twin brother, Nick, a redshirt junior at the University of Minnesota, ran 4:11 for the Gophers last Friday to win the mile at the Husker Invite in Lincoln, Neb.
By the way, Division III track and field performances this season will be a bit harder to assess. The old system of automatic and provisional standards for NCAA championship meet consideration has been eliminated. Each national meet event will be capped at a certain number of entrants.