UChicago women's basketball ends NCAA run in second round with 73-69 loss at St. Thomas

Britta Nordstrom
Britta Nordstrom

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The University of Chicago women's basketball team gave undefeated University of St. Thomas all it could handle on Saturday evening. But the Tommies sank their free throws in the final minute to hold off a late charge and down the Maroons 73-69 in the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship.

The Maroons completed their season with a 19-8 record – their most wins since the 2011-12 season. The No. 2-ranked Tommies moved on to the Round of 16 with a 29-0 record.

St. Thomas has beaten all its opponents this year by an average of 21 points per game. UChicago stuck with its successful high-energy formula to give the Tommies their closest contest of the season. The Maroons made their first three shots, and St. Thomas countered by forcing turnovers and converting its chances as well. The hosts went ahead 16-11, but then a three-pointer from freshman guard Miranda Burt and a layup by freshman guard Mia Farrell tied the score up. Senior forward Britta Nordstrom's layup gave the Maroons a 19-18 lead after one quarter of action.

In the wake of a back-and-forth start to the second quarter, UChicago got on a run with nine-straight points. The visitors went ahead 31-23. Sophomore guard Alyssa Clemente knocked down a three and freshman forward Taylor Lake made a pair of baskets during that stretch. However, the Tommies found their own answer and rumbled back to tie the game at 34-34 heading into halftime.

The Maroons were efficient offensively, making 54.2 percent of their field goals compared to 32.3 percent by the Tommies. UChicago helped its own case with five blocked shots. Nordstrom paced the team with eight points and Clemente chipped in six.

After the break, the Maroons found their groove and went on a 9-1 run to start the third quarter. Nordstrom provided back-to-back layups, junior guard Elizabeth Nye swished a three and Farrell made a pair of free throws. However, St. Thomas rallied back once more with a 12-3 run. Farrell's jumper closed out the quarter and UChicago held a slim edge 48-47 heading into the final period.

The score stood tied at 53-53 midway through the fourth. The Tommies proceeded to score on their next five possessions, aided by several offensive rebounds, to take a 64-55 advantage.

In the final minute of the game, UChicago was forced to foul on the inbounds to get more possessions and chop the deficit. Senior guard Stephanie Anderson converted a tough layup with 42 seconds left to make it 64-59. The Maroons kept scoring from there. The final five possessions all produced points for the visitors. Burt hit a deep three from the right wing at 70-66 and Nordstrom drove for a layup at 71-68.

However, UChicago ran out of time and St. Thomas kept swishing their free throws. The hosts made 12 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter while the Maroons struggled to a 4 of 10 showing from the charity stripe.

Nordstrom closed out her decorated career with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore forward Olariche Obi also posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go with three steals and two blocks. Farrell scored 10 points off the bench.

UChicago's senior class ends its four-year run with a combined record of 68-34 (.667 winning percentage) and two University Athletic Association (UAA) titles.

The Maroons outshot the Tommies overall 49.1 percent to 36.8 percent. St. Thomas made 81.3 percent on free throws (26-32) and UChicago made 55 percent (11-20) over the course of the game. The visitors led the rebounding category (36-35) while the hosts forced more turnovers (18-14).