NCAA PREVIEW: Warriors Set To Tangle With Titans

NCAA PREVIEW: Warriors Set To Tangle With Titans

RV Wisconsin Lutheran (26-1)
vs.
No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan (23-4)

Game No. 28 | NCAA Tournament First Round | Friday, March 1, 2019 | 5:30 p.m.
Schoenecker Arena (2,000) | St. Paul, Minn.

Stats | Video
Directions | Digital Program | Bracket

IT'S TOURNAMENT TIME: Wisconsin Lutheran College will face 17th-ranked Illinois Wesleyan (23-4) in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship Tournament Friday, March 1 at 5:30 p.m. on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ripon (19-8) will face regional host and second-ranked St. Thomas (26-1) in the other first round matchup at 8:00 p.m. The winners of the two first round games will face off in the second round Saturday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets to the game are $7 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.

LIVE COVERAGE: Regional host St. Thomas will provide live stats and video coverage for all three tournament games this weekend. All links are accessible at WLCSports.com.

WISCONSIN LUTHERAN UPDATE: The Warriors are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and eighth time in the last nine years after winning two games in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Tournament to secure the league's automatic bid into the 64-team field. One of just five one-loss teams in NCAA Division III, Wisconsin Lutheran has been receiving votes in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll each of the past three weeks. WLC ranks second in the country in scoring defense (45.3), having held opponents to 50 or fewer points in 21 games this season. The Warriors also rank ninth in scoring margin (24.4), assist-turnover ratio (1.23), and three-point field goal defense (24.4), and 15th in field goal percentage (44.9). Wisconsin Lutheran is led by two-time NACC Player of the Year Jen Dowden, who averages 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. The four-time First Team All-NACC selection became the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,744 career points in last Saturday's tournament championship win over Concordia Wisconsin. NACC Defensive Player of the Year Maddie Cruz averages 3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. First Team All-NACC performer Maddy Elrod ranks third on the team in scoring at 9.6 points and leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game. Lexi Reinke, a Second Team All-NACC selection, averages 7.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and a team-high 3.7 assists per game. Fifteenth-year head coach Klay Knueppel won his 300th career game Friday, February 22 and earned his fourth conference Coach of the Year award. The Warriors, who have won 30 straight home games, have run off separate winning streaks of 11 and 15 games en route to their best record in school history.

HEAD COACH KLAY KNUEPPEL: Four-time NACC Coach of the Year Klay Knueppel is in his 15th season as head coach of the Wisconsin Lutheran College women's basketball program. He enters Friday's contest with an overall collegiate coaching record of 301-112. Knueppel, the third head coach in program history, spent 12 seasons (1992-2004) as an assistant with the Warriors before being named head coach in 2004. Knueppel has guided WLC to seven conference championships and eight NCAA Tournament appearances. He entered the season 28th among winningest active coaches in Division III with a .712 winning percentage.

WISCONSIN LUTHERAN'S ROAD TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: The Warriors garnered the top seed in the NACC Tournament for the second straight season after posting a 19-1 record in league play. WLC defeated fourth-seeded Dominican 69-41 in the semifinals to advance to the NACC Tournament Final. Three players scored in double figures, led by Jen Dowden with a team-high 15 points with Maddy Elrod adding a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. In Saturday's tournament final, the Warriors defeated third-seeded Concordia Wisconsin 67-47 in the two team's fifth meeting in the NACC Tournament title game.

WLC'S LAST GAME: Jen Dowden scored a season-high 30 points and grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds in a 67-47 win over third-seeded Concordia Wisconsin last Saturday in the NACC Tournament Final. CUW held a slim 4-2 lead early before the Warriors rattled off 10 straight. Wisconsin Lutheran led by 15 points at the break and never saw its lead drop below 20 points over the final 3:58 of the game. Lexi Reinke and Kelly Tramburg added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

NACC SUCCESS: Wisconsin Lutheran has experienced great success since the NACC formed in 2006-2007. In 13 seasons, the Warriors have compiled a 209-37 record in conference play and have finished either first or second in the standings 11 times. WLC has won seven NACC regular season titles and has captured the conference tournament title eight times in the last nine years.

2018-2019 – 19-1
2017-2018 – 18-2
2016-2017 – 15-5
2015-2016 – 16-4
2014-2015 – 18-2
2013-2014 – 19-1
2012-2013 – 17-0
2011-2012 – 17-1
2010-2011 – 16-2
2009-2010 – 12-6
2008-2009 – 15-3
2007-2008 – 14-4
2006-2007 – 13-6

NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Wisconsin Lutheran is making its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and owns a 2-9 record on the national stage. The Warriors won their first-ever NCAA Tournament game in 2011, a 73-59 triumph over UW-La Crosse in the first round. WLC posted its biggest NCAA Tournament win in 2015 with a 70-67 overtime upset win over No. 10 Wheaton.

03/02/18 – No. 9 Chicago 70, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 46
03/04/16 – Wartburg 65, Wisconsin Lutheran 49
03/07/15 – No. 14 Hope 72, Wisconsin Lutheran 47
03/06/15 – Wisconsin Lutheran 70, No. 10 Wheaton 67 (OT)
03/07/14 – No. 2 Hope 60, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 54
03/01/13 – No. 22 UW-Whitewater 68, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 48
03/02/12 – No. 5 Calvin 59, Wisconsin Lutheran 47
03/05/11 – No. 7 Illinois Wesleyan 84, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 69
03/04/11 – RV Wisconsin Lutheran 73, UW-La Crosse 59
03/05/03 – No. 1 UW-Eau Claire 70, Wisconsin Lutheran 49
03/01/00 – No. 13 UW-Oshkosh 64, Wisconsin Lutheran 38

NACC IN THE NCAA'S: Wisconsin Lutheran (2019, 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011) is one of only three teams to represent the NACC in its history at the NCAA Tournament, with Lakeland (2017, 2010) and Concordia Wisconsin (2009, 2007) being the two others. The Warriors won the 2008 NACC Tournament, but did not advance to the NCAA Tournament because the league did not have an automatic bid. The NACC is 3-11 all-time in NCAA Tournament games.

03/02/18 – No. 9 Chicago 70, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 46
03/03/17 – No. 5 Ohio Northern 68, Lakeland 36
03/04/16 – Wartburg 65, Wisconsin Lutheran 49
03/07/15 – No. 14 Hope 72, Wisconsin Lutheran 47
03/06/15 – Wisconsin Lutheran 70, No. 10 Wheaton 67 (OT)
03/07/14 – No. 2 Hope 60, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 54
03/01/13 – No. 22 UW-Whitewater 68, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 48
03/02/12 – No. 5 Calvin 59, Wisconsin Lutheran 47
03/05/11 – No. 7 Illinois Wesleyan 84, RV Wisconsin Lutheran 69
03/04/11 – RV Wisconsin Lutheran 73, UW-La Crosse 59
03/05/10 – No. 11 DePauw 79, Lakeland 46
03/07/09 – No. 4 UW-Stevens Point 78, Concordia Wisconsin 58
03/06/09 – Concordia Wisconsin 76, Concordia Moorhead 72
03/02/07 – No. 25 Luther 72, RV Concordia Wisconsin 51

SERIES HISTORY: Friday's NCAA Tournament first round matchup marks the just the second meeting all-time between the Warriors and Titans. Illinois Wesleyan won the only other matchup in the 2011 NCAA Tournament Second Round when the seventh-ranked Titans topped the Warriors 84-69 in Bloomington, Illinois.

WLC VS. THE CCIW: Wisconsin Lutheran's history against College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin opponents dates back to 1993. The Warriors have faced eight of the nine current CCIW members, excluding North Central (Ill.), during its 35-year history. WLC has faced Carthage more times (13) than any other CCIW opponent. Friday's opponent, Illinois Wesleyan, has squared off with the Warriors just once. Entering Friday's tournament contest, the Warriors have won three straight games over CCIW teams dating back to 2013 and are 13-20 all-time against the league.

SCOUTING ILLINOIS WESLEYAN: Ranked 17th in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 poll, the Titans (23-4) finished runner-up in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin regular season with a 14-2 record. IWU earned the conference's automatic bid into the 64-team field after holding on for a 69-68 win over top-seeded Wheaton (Ill.) in the CCIW Tournament Final. Illinois Wesleyan, which has won seven straight games, is back in the tournament for the third straight season and 12th time overall. The Titans hold an 18-11 overall record in the NCAA Tournament. The 2012 national champion, IWU ranks 10th in the nation in field goal percentage (50.0), 13th in assist-turnover ratio (1.18), 14th in assists per game (17.9), and 20th in scoring offense (76.5). Senior center Maddie Merritt, a First Team All-CCIW selection, leads the Titans with 16.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Junior forward Sydney Shanks, also a First Team All-CCIW selection, averages 12.0 points per game. The Titans have scored 80 or more points in 14 games this season.

ILLINOIS WESLEYAN HEAD COACH MIA SMITH: Mia Smith is in her 21st season at the helm of the Illinois Wesleyan Titans. Smith is the program's all-time wins leader and was named the 2012 Women's Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year after leading IWU to a national title. In 2018, Smith was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame as a coach and her 2012 team was also inducted. Smith has coached the Titans to an overall record of 412-167 and a 224-76 record in the CCIW. She has been named the CCIW Coach of the Year six times and has coached eight All-Americans.

ILLINOIS WESLEYAN'S ROAD TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: The CCIW's second-seeded Titans defeated third-seeded Carthage 78-59 in the tournament semifinals, before edging top-seeded and host Wheaton (Ill.) 69-68 in the title game last Saturday. This was IWU's second straight CCIW Tournament title and eighth overall. They have appeared in the CCIW Tournament championship game each of the last four years.

IWU'S LAST GAME: The Titans defeated Wheaton (Ill.) 69-68 in the CCIW Tournament Final last Saturday. IWU came back from a 60-54 deficit with six minutes left in the contest and used an 8-0 run over two minutes to take a 62-60 lead at the 4:42 mark and never trailed again. Ashley Schneider led the way for the Titans with 16 points while Maddie Merritt added 15 points and seven rebounds. Illinois Wesleyan forced 20 Wheaton turnovers and scored 24 points off them.

STUDYING THE LIKELY STARTERS:

WISCONSIN LUTHERAN
#2 Maddie Cruz, G, 5-4, Sr., New Berlin, Wis./Waukesha West
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg
#10 Jen Dowden, F, 6-0, Sr., Bonduel, Wis./Bonduel
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 16.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg
#13 Lexi Reinke, G, 5-11, Sr., Bonduel, Wis./Bonduel
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 7.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.3 spg
#21 Maddy Elrod, F, 6-1, Sr., Conifer, Colo./Conifer
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 9.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.8 spg
#22 Kelly Tramburg, G/F, 5-10, Jr., Fall River, Wis./Fall River
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg

ILLINOIS WESLEYAN
#10 Raven Hughes, F, 5-10, So., Normal, Ill./University
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.8 spg
#12 Sydney Shanks, F, 5-8, Jr., Bloomington, Ill./Central Catholic
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 12.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.3 spg
#22 Nina Anderson, G, 5-10, Sr., Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 6.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 spg
#23 Maddie Merritt, C, 6-0, Sr., Bloomington, Ill./Downs Tri-Valley
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 16.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.0 apg,1.1 spg
#40 Ashley Schneider, F, 5-10, Sr., Nokomis, Ill./Nokomis
2018-2019 Stat Snapshot: 7.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.1 spg