IIAC Tournament position is on the line Saturday when the Simpson women's basketball team heads to Loras for the regular season finale. The Storm need a win to have a chance at the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, but a loss puts them at No. 5. Simpson is looking to complete a regular season sweep of the Duhawks after downing them 81-53 on Jan. 13 in Indianola.
Matchup: Simpson (15-9, 8-5) at Loras (16-8, 9-4)
Date: Saturday, Feb. 20
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Lillis Court - Dubuque, Iowa
Last Time Out
Simpson fended off a comeback minded Buena Vista team on Wednesday thanks to Noreen Morrow's sixth double-double on the season and a pair of clutch three-pointers from Morgan Mauro, helping quell the Beavers' late-run in a 71-64 win at Cowles Fieldhouse on Wednesday night. Morrow scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half and Mauro hit one of her three fourth-quarter 3-pointers with 51 seconds left to create a decisive four point lead.
A look at Loras
Loras senior guard Kaitlin Phillips became the ninth Duhawk to score 1,000 career points thanks to a 14 point night in a 68-51 win over Central College last Wednesday. The win kept Loras all alone in second place in the Iowa Conference, positioning them for a potential first round bye in the next week's conference tournament. The Duhawks are a much different team in Dubuque than on the road, going 9-2 at home and only 6-6 in road games. Where the Duhawks make pay is in the rebounding department. Loras has a +12.7 rebounding margin, nearly 10 rebounds better than the next best margin in the Iowa Conference. The 6-2 Lori Obendorf is a big reason why, averaging a double-double at 10.7 ppg and 11.1 rpg.
Saturday marks the 67th meeting in the all-time series, which Simpson leads 45-21. Loras has had the upper hand recently, winning four of the last five. Simpson snapped a four-game losing streak in the series with an 81-53 win Jan. 13 in Indianola.
5 STORM STORYLINES
1. Tournament Talk
With the Nos. 2-5 seeds in next week's IIAC Tournament still up for grabs, Simpson, Loras and Wartburg still have a shot at the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. One thing is for certain: the Storm need a win to have a shot at getting a bye or hosting the first round, but they need help. Simpson gets the No. 2 seed with a win and a Wartburg loss at conference champion Luther. If Simpson and Wartburg both win, Simpson drops to No. 3. In the worst-case scenario, if Simpson wins and the other teams involved in the three-way tie - Wartburg and Buena Vista - both win, the Storm drop to No. 5. A loss Saturday drops Simpson to No. 5 and puts them on the road in the first round.
2. Simpson's shooting streak
You'll have to go way back to find a game in which Simpson didn't make at least one 3-pointer. The Storm women have made at least one 3-pointer in 239 straight games, dating all the way back to a 70-61 win over Albright College on Dec. 28, 2007 when they went 0-of-13 from behind the arc. This season Simpson has averaged 6.3 3s per game and are led by Morgan Mauro who has made 38, seven more than Mackenzie Haupt's 31. Mauro made her 154th 3-pointer of her career against Central on Jan. 27, moving her into sole possession of third place in Simpson's all-time 3-point list.
3. Battle of the post
Sophomore center Noreen Morrow's breakout season is no surprise at this point after she recorded her sixth double-double of the season on Wednesday, improving her season scoring average to 12.4 ppg. Clashing heads with her on Saturday will be Lori Obendorf. The two are both 6-2 and score around the basket exclusively, more so than any two players in the league. Last time out Morrow got the best of Obendorf, outscoring her 24-8. Morrow's 53 percent field goal shooting is fourth in the league while Obendorf is fifth. They are the only two players in the top 30 in scoring in the Iowa Conference who haven't recorded at least one three-pointer. Morrow's 76.3 free throw percentage is markedly better than Obendorf's, who shoots 56.2 percent from the line.
4. Weekend warriors
While it's a small sample size, when Simpson plays a road game in conference, whether it's a Wednesday or a Saturday has made a big difference. Simpson is 2-0 in conference road games on Saturdays while just 1-3 on Wednesday road games. Additionally, the Storm average 75.5 ppg in conference road games on Saturday while only 60.5 ppg on Wednesday.
5. Triple Threat
Simpson has three players who average double-figures in scoring, led by Noreen Morrow (12.4 ppg), Mackenzie Haupt (11.0 ppg) and Maddie Bosworth (11.0). If this trio can stay above 10.0 ppg with at least two games remaining in the season they would be the first group of three to score in double-figures for Simpson in one season since 2009-10, a feat the Storm women didn't accomplish during even their three straight NCAA Tournament appearances between 2010-2013. The 2009-10 group included Stacey Schutjer, Katie Kitzman and Amy Hamilton.
Brian Niemuth is in his 29th season as Simpson's head coach, where he is 550-227. 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 335 victories.
Pending the outcome Saturday, Simpson could either play on Tuesday, Feb. 23 in the first round of the Iowa Conference tournament or Thursday, Feb. 25 if it secures the No. 2 seed and a bye.