IIAC Champs! Spartans Clinch First Conference Title in School History
Feb 21, 2015 | None
DUBUQUE, Iowa – Sophomore Emily Brinker scored a career-high 25 points on senior night as the University of Dubuque women’s basketball team blew the game open in the second half and shot a season best 59 percent from the field to defeat Luther, 94-81, on Saturday afternoon.
After placing third, third, and second-place in the Iowa Conference (IIAC ) regular season standings the past three seasons, the Spartans (17-8, 11-3 Iowa Conference) earned a school record 11 conference wins and finally secured their first IIAC title since the start of IIAC play in 1982. They did so at the expense of the Norse (20-5, 10-4 Iowa Conference) who would have claimed the IIAC crown with a win.
Thanks to their first round bye in the IIAC tournament, UD will avoid the fate of last season's first round exit at the hands of Buena Vista. Coach Noll's squad reached the IIAC tournament title game two years ago, but lost at the hands of Simpson. The Spartans will face the winner of the No. 5 seed Wartburg vs. No. 4 seed Loras matchup Thursday in Stoltz Sports Center in pursuit of their second IIAC title of the season and automatic bid into the 2015 NCAA Division III National Championships.
The five Spartan starters (all seniors), Jenna Kotas. Meggie Schmidt, Brittany Collier, Jessica Goetz, and Kayla Springer combined for 61 points on an efficient 19-for-34 shooting night in their final regular season game together. Now the winningest class in UD history, they gave the fans plenty to cheer about over the course of their time at UD. The quintet featured the only regular all-senior starting lineup in the IIAC.
On a night when the Spartan Five were honored postgame, it was the brilliant play of the sophomore Brinker that helped kick start the decisive 21-2 run midway through the second half that put the game out of reach. Nursing a two-point lead, 51-49, with 14:39 remaining, Brinker converted a pair of layups through contact and a free throw to extend UD’s lead to seven. Brinker later canned a three as she scored 8 of UD’s first 13 points in the run. Schmidt capped it off with a three to give the Spartans a 21-point lead.
The Spartan lead would climb to as high as 27 as UD held off a furious Norse rally. Luther closed to within 12 with 1:51 remaining, but would come no closer as UD converted their free throws to seal it.
Despite shooting 35.8% for the game, Luther managed to stay in it after taking advantage of a slew of miscues by the Spartan offensive. The Norse faced a mere 45-42 deficit at halftime thanks to 15 points off 10 first half turnovers by a hot shooting UD team (56%) in the first half. Luther finished the game with a 35 to 14 advantage in points off turnovers, but couldn’t withstand the 59% shooting overall by the Spartans.
Brinker finished with 15 of her 25 points in the second half and shot 8 of 11 overall from the field, including two three-pointers. Brinker's hot shooting aided a Spartan effort that eclipsed their previous best of 51% shooting against UW-Stout in November.
Kotas registered her eighth 20-point game of the IIAC season after totaling 22 points and five rebounds on 8-for-13 production from the field. Kotas earned the IIAC scoring title after averaging 18.1 points in league play and ended up tied for second with 7.6 rebounds per game.
The Spartans continued their dominance of the Norse after earning their 11th win in the last 13 games in the series. UD avenged an earlier season loss at Luther, 80-70, back on January 14.
First Round --- Tuesday, February 24
No. 6 Simpson at No. 3 Coe, 7 p.m.
No. 5 Wartburg at No. 4 Loras, 7 p.m.
Semifinals --- Thursday, February 26
Simpson/Coe winner at No. 2 Luther, 7 p.m.
Wartburg/Loras winner at No. 1 Dubuque, 7 p.m.
Championship -- Saturday, February 28
Semifinal winners at highest remaining seed, TBA