ST. PAUL, Minn. – Whenever the University of Chicago women's basketball team needed a big play on Friday evening, Miranda Burt was there to provide it. The freshman guard hit three-pointers, snagged steals and made clutch free throws at the most opportune times. Burt's spark proved the difference as UChicago won its first round NCAA playoff game 67-63 over Wartburg College.
The Maroons improved their record to 19-7 and advance to the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship to face No. 2-ranked University of St. Thomas (28-0). The No. 8-ranked Knights ended their season at 25-3.
UChicago is making its sixth NCAA appearance and first since 2012. Wartburg was back in the tournament after reaching the national semifinals last year. In the first quarter, the Maroons took over in impressive fashion. After falling behind 4-0, they proceeded to rip off a 16-3 run that featured scoring from numerous sources. Freshman forward Taylor Lake tallied five points and senior forward Britta Nordstrom had four points in that stretch.
Wartburg steadily chopped into the deficit at the end of the first quarter and start of the second. The Knights edged to within five points at 24-19 until Burt swished a three-pointer for the Maroons. The freshman guard caught fire in the first half. After missing her first shot of the game, Burt hit her next six, including five three-pointers for a total of 17 points.
UChicago's hectic defensive style paid dividends and turned the Knights over 16 times in the half. The Maroons tallied 16 points off those turnovers. Back-to-back threes by Burt and sophomore guard Jamie Kockenmeister put the team up 10 points. UChicago eventually headed into the halftime break with a 42-34 lead. The Maroons shot 42.4 percent in the first half compared to 54.4 percent by Wartburg.
The third quarter turned into an offensive slog for UChicago. The Maroons were limited to three points over the last six minutes of the period, and Wartburg inched ever closer, eventually getting to within one point at 50-49 early in the fourth quarter.
Nordstrom and sophomore forward Olariche Obi provided some breathing room with a layup and two free throws, respectively. Obi's work on the boards paid off with an offensive put back off a miss at 56-53. However, Wartburg charged back and scored on three-straight trips down the floor to take a slim 59-58 lead.
Obi came through with another layup to recapture the advantage with 1:24 left in the game. Then Burt stepped up defensively, pilfering the ball on defense and sprinting the other way for a transition layup with 55 seconds remaining.
With less than 30 seconds left and trailing by two points, the Knights got two looks at the basket. But Obi blocked the initial shot and the follow-up three was rebounded by Burt. After getting immediately fouled, Burt calmly deposited both free throws through the cylinder to make it a four-point lead (65-61).
Wartburg drew a foul and made two free throws of their own with seven seconds left. This time, junior guard Elizabeth Nye came up clutch after being immediately fouled off the inbounds pass. Nye made both from the line to account for the final 67-63 score. The Knights were unable to score on their final possession and Burt fittingly came down with the ball to end the game.
Burt's 23 points marked a new career high. She made 8 of 12 from the field while adding four assists and three steals. Lake and Nordstrom provided eight points apiece. Obi posted seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Nye had seven points as well. Senior guard Stephanie Anderson filled up the box score with seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.
UChicago shot 35.6 percent from the field overall, but had more success from three-point range at 42.9 percent (9-21). The Maroons also nailed 80 percent of their free throws (16-20). Wartburg made 41.4 percent of its field goals, but only 3 of 17 three-pointers. UChicago won the rebounding battle (40-38) and the turnover column (21-18).
- Saturday, Mar. 4 @ 7:00 PM – UChicago at St. Thomas (NCAA Second Round)