NCAA Tournament Preview: UMHB women’s basketball battles Transylvania, Trine faces Springfield, in third round

Photo by Neil Faux/@FauxFx31

LEXINGTON- For the third straight year, the UMHB women’s basketball team has reached the Sweet 16. The Crusaders will be joined by Transylvania, Trine, and Springfield in this weekend’s sectional pod in Lexington, Kentucky, set to be hosted by the Pioneers of No. 3-ranked Transylvania, on Friday and Saturday. 

“This is a culmination of their hard work and something I want them to enjoy,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said Saturday. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do, whether it’s in the summer when they got back on campus, or when we started practice. This is a reward for them and for what they’ve been able to accomplish. You don’t want to take these moments for granted.” 

The Cru battles Transylvania and Trine faces Springfield on Friday. The winners of those two games will meet on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT in Lexington. All three games can be seen here: 

But before the games tip-off, with a spot in the Final Four on the line, here is a look at the four teams set to take the court this weekend: 

Mary Hardin-Baylor (24-4, 18-1 ASC)

Location: Belton, Texas

Conference: American Southwest Conference (ASC)

Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2020

Coming off a confidence-building 75-57 win over ETBU in the second round of the tournament on Saturday, UMHB is aiming high, and as head coach Mark Morefield recently said, “getting back to where we were in the 20-game win streak” in February. The Crusaders play best when they can work the ball into the paint, and score at the rim, though the outside shooting has seen an improvement over the last two games as well. Guard Arieona Rosborough has paced the scoring attack as of late, though the Cru is very balanced offensively. She posted a double-double (25 points, 13 rebounds) in her first career NCAA Tournament game on Friday.

Most Impressive Win: 72-70 at ETBU (then No. 14 in the nation, NCAA Tournament team), Jan. 13

Third Round Matchup: vs Transylvania, Friday, 5:30 p.m. CT

Transylvania (26-0, 13-0 HCAC)

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Conference: Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC)

Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2019

The Pioneers are one of two remaining teams in D-III women’s basketball who hold perfect records at this point in the tournament, entering Friday’s duel with UMHB at 26-0 overall. Running a unique defense (2-3 zone), Transylvania’s defense is its strong point. Opponents are averaging just 50.7 points per game this season and shooting 33.1 percent from the field. Leading that defensive charge, which has sparked a quality offense along with it, is junior guard Madison Kellione, who leads the team with 51 steals in 26 starts this season. That is not to say the Pioneer offense is not dangerous either; it is. Against Southern Virginia in a 77-55 second-round win, Transvylanvia mounted an impressive 14-2 that closed out the third quarter, extending the lead to 29. HCAC champions for the second straight year, the Pioneers are on a 30-game win streak that began last spring. 

Most Impressive Win: 83-75 vs John Carroll (then No. 3 in the nation, NCAA Tournament team), Dec. 20

Third Round Matchup: vs UMHB, Friday, 5:30 p.m. CT

Trine (26-3, 15-1 MIAA)

Location: Angola, Indiana

Conference: Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA)

Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2020

The Thunder entered this year’s NCAA Tournament with one of the nation’s best resumes. After all, when you knock off the nation’s No. 1 team and snap a 61-game win streak in the process, you will see a boost in national recognition. Ranked No. 5 in the last D3hoops.com Top 25 pool, Trine enters with a 26-3 record, and is a deep team, led by four players averaging eight points or better per game. Tara Bieniewicz is a sharpshooter from long-range, leading Trine with a shooting percentage of 39.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc. In the second-round win over John Carroll last Saturday, the senior eclipsed the career 200 three-point field goal mark. Trine is a solid defensive team, averaging 10.1 steals per game, and has plenty of experience, with three seniors in the starting lineup. 

Most Impressive Win: 70-62, at Hope (then No. 1 in the nation, NCAA Sweet 16 team), Jan. 26

Third Round Matchup: vs Springfield, Friday, 3:30 p.m. CT

Springfield (24-4, 7-3 ECAC)

Location: Springfield, Massachusetts

Conference: Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC)

Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2005

Springfield’s road to the second weekend of the tournament was perhaps the most narrow of any team still playing at this point. The Pride won its first-round game over Messiah, 73-68, before emerging with a 73-71 overtime win over Ithaca the following day on a buzzer-beating jump-shot. The tenacity late in games has been something seen from Springfield throughout this season, as they won three games by margins of five points or less in the regular season. But the Pride also demonstrated its dominance in the ECAC often, including winning by what might be the largest margin of victory in D-III women’s basketball this year: a 73-18 rout of Wellesley in January. Springfield moves the ball well, with an average of 18.3 assists per game, and is led by the play of Sydney Wentland. The graduate student brings both D-I and D-II experience to the table, in her fifth year of college basketball, and also has versatility, with the ability to play either the forward or guard position. She enters Friday’s game averaging 12.4 points per game. 

Most Impressive Win: 75-71 vs Babson (NCAA Tournament Team), Jan. 12

Third Round Matchup: vs Trine, Friday, 3:30 p.m. CT

Riley Zayas is the managing editor of True to The Cru. He has covered college sports nationally for D3football.com, D3hoops.com, and Sports Spectrum. He can be emailed at rileyzayas@truetothecru.com.

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