Women’s basketball to host first two rounds of NCAA tournament
The Washington University Women’s Basketball team clinched their conference championship and punched their ticket to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament Feb. 15. This weekend, they will be playing to extend their season as they host the first two rounds of the tournament.
The Bears will welcome No. 11 George Fox University, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Greenville University. Wash. U. will face UW-Whitewater on Friday at 7:00 PM in WU Field House. The winner of that game will face either George Fox or Greenville Saturday night.
The Red and Green ended the regular season on a tear, winning 14 of their last 15 games. They won the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship with a 13-1 record. The next closest teams were University of Chicago and Emory University, who tied at 10-4. The Bears knocked down a conference-leading 43.2 percent of their shots from the field. Their points have been coming from a variety of sources. Seven Bears averaged over five points per game this season. Junior Kristina Schmelter (8.3), senior Becca Clark-Callender (7.1) and freshman Samantha Weaver (6.0) have all contributed significant minutes and points down the stretch.
Senior Madeline Homoly has been efficient this season, posting a field goal percentage of 54.6 percent while leading the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game. Homoly’s effort on defense and in transition has also been a major factor in the Bears success. Homoly leads the team in steals (31) and rebounds per game (7.2). The team’s intensity on both sides of the basketball court has contributed to a scoring margin of 10.6 points through the regular season.
The Bears have also been making a healthy chunk of their shots from beyond the arc. They have connected on 32.9 percent of their 3 pointers this season. Senior Caroline Ballard finished fifth in the conference in three-point percentage at 36.6 percent. Seniors Stephanie Botkin and Rachael Sondag are also in the top ten of the conference, shooting 35.6 percent and 35.4 percent respectively, from three.
Wash. U. has excelled at spreading the ball around and Clark-Callender has excelled as setting up her teammates, posting five assists per game, the third most in the conference. She has also been efficient at maintaining possession, ending the season with the seventh-best assist to turnover ratio in the conference. Fellow senior Caroline Ballard was second in the conference in assist to turnover ratio.
The Bears will test the mettle against UW-Whitewater Friday night. Whitewater has made the tournament 11 times in the last 12 years. They earned an at-large bid this year after placing second in their conference. After winning nine consecutive games, they closed the season by losing two of their last three games, including a blow-out to UW-Oshkosh.
Whitewater sophomore Emily Schumacher is the Warhawks primary offensive threat. She has posted 12.3 points per game on 39.8 percent shooting. Second on the team is senior Olivia Freckmann, who has posted 10.9 points per game on 49.6% shooting and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Whitewater finished the season second in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in rebounds per game and allowed the second fewest rebounds per game by opponents. Whichever team manages to control the backboards on Friday will greatly improve their chances of winning.
George Fox is on a 12-game winning streak. They got to the tournament by winning the Northwest Conference Championship. Head coach Michael Meek was named NWC Coach of the Year because of his role in his team’s success this season. George Fox has historically been one of the strongest programs in Division III basketball. They have a 31-13 record in the post-season, which leaves them with the fourth highest winning percentage in DIII basketball. The Bears, for comparison, are second. The programs have split their two meetings so far.
George Fox appears very similar to Wash. U. on paper. George Fox has an array of players who can contribute significant minutes and points for them. Nine of their players average five points per game or more. They are shooting 43.2 percent from the field this season—the exact same percentage as Wash. U. Senior Tavin Headings leads the team in points (12.2) despite coming off the bench for the majority of the season.
The Bruins will face the Greenville Panthers at 5:00 p.m. Friday. Greenville won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Tournament to clinch their tournament berth. They last made the playoffs in 2016, when they lost to the Bears 87-48. Seniors Sondag, Ballard, Clark-Callendar and Botkin scored in that game.
Senior Wesley Woodard is scoring 13.7 points per game on 56 percent shooting. She has been stellar at the free-throw line, knocking down 79.2 percent of her shots from the charity stripe. The Panthers will need stand-out performances from Woodard and other meaningful contributors—senior Jantzen Michael, junior Morgan St. James and junior Emily Brandland—if they want to upset George Fox Friday afternoon.