WHITEWATER, Wis. – Despite a monster effort from Kate Nielsen and a valiant comeback in the second half, the No. 10 Simpson women's basketball team lost to No. 22 UW-Whitewater, 76-63 in the third round of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship on Friday.
Nielsen had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Storm (27-3), who saw their run in the NCAA Tournament come to a close. Nicole Crisp added 15 points as Simpson finished one of the greatest seasons in school history, tying the school record for wins.
Sam Quandt came off the bench to score 19 points and went 4-for-5 from 3-point range for the Warhawks (24-6), who used an 11-0 run early in the second half to build a 17-point lead.
"We started the second half on a 5-0 run and went up and I thought we had good pace and good control of what we wanted to do," head coach Brian Niemuth said. "Then I think, physically we hit the wall a little bit."
Trailing 61-44 with 9:21 left in the game, Simpson fought back with a 9-0 run, capped off by back-to-back 3s by Crisp that made the score 61-55 with 6:43 left.
"We made that comeback from being down 17 to being down six," Niemuth said. "But when you dig yourself that big of a hole it uses a lot of energy and we just couldn't get over that hump."
A jumper by Quandt stopped the run and consecutive 3s by Mary Merg and Kaitlyn Thill built the lead back to 14, 69-55 with 4:49 left.
"They just went on spurts we couldn't stop," Nielsen said.
UW-Whitewater finished the game 8-for-22 from beyond the arc, including 6-for-11 in the second half.
Merg finished with 17 points and Thill had five steals for a Warhawks team that improved to 4-0 all-time against Simpson in the NCAA Tournament. UW-Whitewater ended Simpson's last trip to the third round, a 96-69 decision at Whitewater in 2008.
Nielsen finished the season with 648 points, the second-highest single season total in Simpson history. She set school records for rebounds (256), free throws made (176) and 3-point percentage (53.7) in a season and finished third on the steals list (83).
"This group has provided leadership that has been some of the best I've ever had," Niemuth said. "If someone asked me at the beginning of the season where we'd be at the end, I would have told you the middle of the conference. We only had five players returning with varsity experience, but this group took the freshmen and got them to believe in our system … they really got the freshman to play unlike freshman. Overall these four have set the ground work for the upcoming years."