INDIANOLA, Iowa – Kate Nielsen scored 22 points to lead four players in double figures as No. 10 Simpson beat No. 18 UW-Stevens Point 88-84 in the second round of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship on Saturday night at Cowles Fieldhouse.
With the win, Simpson advances to the Sweet 16 to face No. 22 UW-Whitewater on Friday, March 8. The site and time for that game is yet to be determined.
The Storm (27-2) led by as many as 16 in the second half, but had to hang on down the stretch as the Pointers (24-6) pulled within two on two occasions in the final minutes. The last came when Sam Barber hit a 3 with 32 seconds left to make the score 86-84.
Kelsie Reeves left the door open by going 1 of 2 at the free throw line, but Brooke Allen missed the potential game-tying 3 with 12 seconds left and Crisp put the game away at the free throw line, making 1 of 2 with eight seconds left.
"It's kind of a dream come true, really," Reeves said of making it to the round of 16. "In the four years I've been here, we've gotten so close but never quite got there. I'm really excited for the opportunity we have and really looking forward to see what we can do."
Nielsen – the Iowa Conference MVP – added eight rebounds, Nicole Crisp had 19 points and five steals, Reeves had 16 points and Chelsie Rohrs 12 to help the Storm to their third Sweet 16 appearance and first since 2008.
The MVP of the Wisconsin Conference, Barber finished with 24 points on 6-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Liz Althoff had 21 points and went 5-for-9 from downtown as the Pointers connected on 15 3s in the game, tying an NCAA Tournament record.
"You don't want anyone to make 15 3s against you, but on the other hand we're not going to change what we do," head coach Brian Niemuth said. "… hopefully we can make some tweaks."
On the other side, Simpson's attacking style yielded 40 free throw attempts. The Storm made 35, just three shy of tying an NCAA Tournament record.
"We were attacking the paint off the dribble and Stevens Point is a very physical team," Niemuth said. "They will try to reach, grab, get into a little bit and overplay."
The last time Simpson met UW-Stevens Point was in 2011, when the Pointers beat Simpson 82-75 in Stevens Point for a chance to go to the Sweet 16.
"I guess the tables were turned a little bit tonight," Niemuth said. "Two years these two teams were fighting to get to the Sweet 16 and it was the same two teams this year, so I think that speaks highly of both programs."
Back-to-back 3s from Crisp and Nielsen sparked an 8-0 run early in the second half that gave Simpson its largest lead of the game, 61-45. But a 5 minute, 31 second drought from the field late in the game allowed UWSP to mount a 12-4 run, capped by an Althoff 3 that brought the Pointers within 79-76 with 3:25 left.
Freshman Brooke Panzer ended the cold streak when the post stepped back and hit a deep two with 3 minutes left, giving Simpson an 81-76 lead. Panzer scored six of her nine point in the final minutes.
Simpson ties a school record for wins in a season set by the 2007-08 team … Simpson improves to 11-12 all-time in 13 NCAA Tournament appearances … Kate Nielsen moved into second on Simpson's single-season scoring list with 620 points in 2012-13 … Carla Horstman holds the record of 657, set in 1976-77 … Simpson faced UW-Whitewater in its last trip to the Sweet 16, losing 96-69 in 2008 … Simpson is 0-2 all-time against the Warhawks in the NCAA Tournament.