In 2011, Wisconsin-Stevens Point hosted the D-III NCAA Tournament, and one of the teams they beat is one they’ll face Saturday night — this time, on the road.
Simpson took care of Westminster (Mo.) 90-51 in the first round of the national tournament Friday night thanks to an ultra-fast start made by the Storm.
Kate Nielsen ended up with 28 points, but most of those started out in the 12-0 run that energized the Storm in their own environment.
“I don’t really pay attention to how much I score, but I did notice to the amount of open shots that we had starting out,” said Nielsen. “It’s national tournament time, you can’t pass up open looks. We were comfortable from the start, and when you come out with that much energy, good things happen.”
Head Coach Brian Niemuth was also impressed by the energy that sparked the early Storm run.
“I was really impressed with the energy early,” said Niemuth. “I think that helped us get those shots early and sparked our defense, too.”
Westminster tried to climb back, but they knew they were up against a better foe throughout the night.
“Give them credit, they were shooting lights out early,” said Bluejays coach Tracey Braden. “The game was not what we anticipated, but our team never gave up. The Storm was a solid team and they played a good game. They didn’t cool off too much tonight.”
The fast start that escalated to Simpson being up 20-7 was one that Niemuth will put toward the top of his all-time list.
“We were ready to go and set an example for the freshmen,” he said. “I’ve been here too many years to remember them all, but I know it doesn’t happen a lot.”
The accelerated lead allowed the freshmen, especially those who don’t normally see the floor, and that was something that Niemuth didn’t mind doing.
“It allowed us to do two things tonight: rest our regulars and to get the less experienced players some playing time,” said Niemuth, who won his 504th career game Friday.
Another positive that came out of it was allowing one of the freshmen to score her first basket, which was also a historic one.
Rachel Sage scored the final basket for the Storm on the night, but it was her first points in just her second game of the season. It was also the program-tying basket for most points scored in an NCAA Tournament game.
The last time Simpson scored 91 points was in the 2007 tournament.
“The way we started from beginning to end, that was probably one of the best efforts I’ve seen in the tournament,” said Niemuth.
After falling to the Pointers two years ago, the loss in last year’s NCAA tournament laid fresh in the seniors’ minds.
“We had a chip on our shoulder,” All-Iowa Conference first teamer Nicole Crisp said. “We lost to Chicago (in the first round) last year, and us seniors didn’t want to go out like that again. We wanted to make a statement.”
Niemuth is looking forward to facing the Pointers again.
“It actually feels good to be breaking down a new team again,” he said. “They’re going to be a physical team, they’re going to crash the boards, and it’s going to be a
Crisp also appreciated those who decided to delay their spring break.
“It was cool to see so many students here and to push back their spring break,” she said. “For us, we don’t want a spring break, we want to keep playing.”
Simpson faces UW-Stevens Point on Saturday after the Pointers sent Concordia-Moorehead home.