INDIANOLA, Iowa - A potential share of the Iowa Conference lead is on the line on Saturday as Simpson takes on the Luther Norse (RV/NR) at Cowles Fieldhouse in Indianola, aiming to protect a perfect record at home.
Matchup: Luther (12-4, 4-1) at Simpson (10-6, 3-2)
Date: Saturday, Jan. 23
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Cowles Fieldhouse - Indianola, Iowa
Last time out
Simpson let a 50-42 lead at the start of the 4th quarter slip away as Wartburg rallied for a 17-6 final frame in a 59-56 loss in Waverly on Wednesday, snapping a three-game winning streak. Junior Katie Ahrenholtz had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds but her 3-point attempt was off the mark. Mackenzie Haupt scored a game-high 15 points for Simpson and Noreen Morrow tied a career-high with 12 rebounds despite being held to two points in the loss.
A look at Luther
The Norse, led by fifth-year head coach Amanda Bailey, were selected to finish first in the Iowa Conference Preseason Coaches' poll, earning a No. 21 national ranking to start the year after winning the Iowa Conference Tournament in 2014-15. Since then Luther has dropped out of the top 25 and are coming off an 80-78 loss to Loras on Wednesday after Loras hit a game-winning layup with five seconds remaining. The Norse play balanced basketball, standing second in the Iowa Conference in scoring defense (60.1 PPG), fourth in scoring offense (70.4 PPG) and second in scoring margin (+10.3) before Wednesday's game with Loras. Luther makes sure not to beat itself, leading the league in free-throw percentage (74.4 %) and turnover margin (+6.00). Senior guard Moran Lonning is Luther's all-purpose threat, leading the team in scoring (11.8 PPG), rebounding (6.6 RPG), assists (3.7 APG) and steals (2.6). Luther relies heavily on five players, Lonning, Kylie Romeo, Taylor Jenks, Anna Madrigal and Solveig Nelson, all of which have started all 16 games this year.
Sautrday marks the 76th meeting in a series that dates back to the 1976-77 season. Simpson leads the all-time series 44-31 and is 11-2 against the Norse since 2009. The teams split last season's meetings, with the Storm taking an exciting 88-81 overtime win in Indianola before Luther beat Simpson 45-35 in Decorah. The second meeting was lowest-scoring in the history of the 39-year series.
TOP 5 STORM STORYLINES
1. Home Sweet Home
Cowles Fieldhouse has been kind to Simpson this season. The Storm are a perfect 5-0 at home and have done so with relative ease, outscoring opponents by an average of 18.2 points per game in Indianola. Four of the wins have come by at least 12 points, thanks to a bolstered offense that averages 76.8 ppg at home, 13.0 more points than their road average of 63.8 ppg. Simpson has hit 47 3-pointers at home as well, 17 more than on the road in the same number of games.
2. Stop the bleeding
The Storm have done a good job of recovering after losses this season. Following a defeat, Simpson is 4-1 and has responding by posting a +7.8 scoring margin in those games while allowing only 66.4 ppg in games following a loss. The only time this season Simpson had back-to-back losses came on Nov. 20-21 against UW-River Falls and UW-Stout.
3. She can do it all
While she doesn't get a lot of attention as an offensive force, being seventh on the team in scoring at 4.8 ppg, senior Whitney Van Wyk provides a glue to the team with her versatility. Van Wyk leads the Storm in minutes played (28.8 mpg), assist to turnover ration (2.8), is tied for first in blocks (0.9 bpg), defensive rebounds (3.3 drpg) and is tied for second in steals per game (2.0 spg). Van Wyk has played in 90 career games and has started 42 straight games dating back to the 2013-14 season.
4. Shooting for a record
Senior guard Morgan Mauro continues her ascent up Simpson's all-time 3-point field goal list. After going 1 of 2 from deep on Wednesday, Mauro has 150 career 3s, three short of tying Tiffany Whitsell (1999-2003) for third all-time. Her 27 3s are good for ninth in the IIAC prior to Wednesday's game, making up 26 percent of all of Simpson's 3s this year. Amy Hamilton (2007-11) holds Simpson's career record with 241 3s, followed by Carlie Beals (2004-008) with 236.
5. Three Thieves
With 38 steals on the season, senior guard Mackenzie Haupt has already passed her career-season high of 30 steals set last year. She isn't the only one who has caught the bug though, as Maddie Bosworth and Whitney Van Wyk have 32 steals apiece, good for 2.0 steals per game. As a result, Simpson finds itself second in the league in steals at 10.0 per game prior to facing Wartburg. Haupt, Bosworth and Van Wyk all find themselves in the top-five in steals in the Iowa Conference.
Brian Niemuth is in his 29th season as Simpson's head coach, where he is 545-224. He has won 11 IIAC Championships and has led his team to the NCAA Tournament 11 times. The seven-time IIAC Coach of the Year entered the season ranked 10th among active Division III coaches in wins. He is the winningest coach in IIAC history with 330 victories.
The Simpson women will make the short trip to Pella to face the Central Dutch on Wednesday, Jan. 27. The action gets underway at 6 p.m. from Kuyper Gymnasiun.