ST. PAUL, Minn. – Down 14 at half, the No. 9 University of Chicago women's basketball team pulled out all the stops with a fourth-quarter comeback, but host University of St. Thomas made tough shots down the stretch to hand the Maroons a 68-62 loss in the Second Round of the NCAA Division III Tournament Saturday.
Sophomore Mia Farrell turned it on in the second half, scoring 19 of her game-high 23 in the final two quarters. Classmate Taylor Lake added 13 points and junior Olariche Obi capped the season with her 15th double-double of 2017-18, finishing with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Following the contest, Maroons Head Coach Carissa Sain Knoche commented on UChicago's balance and support of one another in Saturday's contest and throughout the historic season, which included a perfect league finish and 22-straight victories en route to the team's 24-3 record.
"That's what's neat about this group – they all matter, every last one of them," Sain Knoche said. "It's the little moments, the small interactions…that make them so bought into each other, and you don't get a third and fourth quarter like without those moments where they really just care so much about each other."
The No. 6 Tommies (27-2) jumped out to its 36-22 halftime lead behind some hot shooting – they hit 6-of-13 3s in the first 20 minutes – while the Maroons fell cold from the field, shooting 33.3 percent, including a 1-of-2 effort from 3-point land.
The second half proved to have a different feel. Farrell caught fire from behind the arc out of the halftime break, draining a triple in the first minute of the third quarter. She would add two more in the frame, helping keep the Maroons close despite several answers from the Tommies, who held a 10-point lead, 52-42, heading into the fourth.
Lake and St. Thomas' Kaia Porter traded 3s to open the frame and Lake added another bucket inside to bring the Maroons within five, 55-50, with 6:52 to play. After another St. Thomas answer, back-to-back layups by Obi – who was relentless on the offensive glass with nine – cut that lead to three before Farrell stole the ball and took it coast-to-coast to make the score 57-56 with 4:40 to go.
The Maroons would take their first lead since the first quarter 16 seconds later on two Obi free throws, 58-57, but the Tommies again would have an answer, the biggest -- and likely the game decider -- a Maddie Wolkow 3 from the wing to give the hosts a four-point lead with 21 seconds left. Hannah Spaulding and Wolkow would seal it at the free throw line, making all four down the stretch.
UChicago finished the game 36.7 percent (22-of-60) from the field compared to 45.8 percent (22-of-48) for the Tommies, who ended up 9-of-21 (42.9 percent) from downtown compared to 6-of-10 (60 percent) for the Maroons.
St. Thomas just edged UChicago on the boards, 34-32, but the Maroons forced the Tommies into 21 turnovers while committing just 13, and UChicago outscored the Tommies in the paint, 32-26.
Miranda Burt chipped in seven points and three assists and Obi added five steals and two assists to her line to round out UChicago's leaders.
Spaulding netted 19 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks and three steals to lead the Tommies, who advance to the NCAA Round of 16 to take on East Texas Baptist University next weekend at a site to be determined.
Saturday's contest ended the four-year careers of the Maroons' two captains, Madison Dunbar and Elizabeth Nye, who finished their tenure with a record of 77-27, two University Athletic Association championships, two NCAA Tournament appearances and the second-longest winning streak in program history at 22.
"We made a goal at Thanksgiving going into Christmas to be 9-2 and I think at that point, we were 4-2… and we didn't lose from then, until now," Nye said in the post-game presser.
"I think I've never been prouder to be a part of a group of girls that honestly care so much about each other, and that's what made this group so special."