Senior guard Ann Simonet had 17 points to lead Minnesota Duluth to a 67-55 victory over St. Cloud State in the NSIC Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game Sunday before 87 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Junior forward Brooke Olson added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and senior forward Sarah Grow chipped in 10 points and two blocks for the Bulldogs (13-1), who won their second NSIC tourney title in the past three seasons, avenging a loss to the Huskies in last year’s tourney title game.
“Last year was kind of a heartbreaker for us as we went in kind of expecting to win,” Olson said. “This year, a lot of people made some really big shots and just fired us up and got us all super excited. It was definitely a team effort.”
UMD, which had six players score at least seven points apiece, shot 52.1% from the field compared to just 33.3% for St. Cloud State (12-5).
“This is a really fun tournament as always,” UMD coach Mandy Pearson said. “We just love being here, and to come out and play St. Cloud and to get out to the start that we did is obviously a tribute to the performance of our players because St. Cloud is so good and so talented on both ends of the floor.”
Tori Wortz had 19 points, and Nikki Kilboten added 12 for the Huskies, who were down 37-21 at the half after UMD outscored them 22-9 in the second quarter. St. Cloud State got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
UMD’s Simonet, Olson and senior guard/forward Payton Kahl were named to the all-tournament team along with St. Cloud State’s Wortz and Kilboten.
“At halftime, we talked about the things that we were doing right, and about putting that full 40 minutes together,” Pearson said. “When you’re playing a team like St. Cloud, they can score so quickly, they’re so talented offensively, but we wanted to come out in the second half with the same energy that we started the game with. St. Cloud made a run; we knew they were going to, but I was just proud we were able to contain that run and finish the game.”
This year, the top six teams in the region advance to the NCAA Central Region tournament March 12-15 in Warrensburg, Missouri.
The NSIC and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament winners receive automatic bids while the four remaining spots will be chosen at large.
The NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Show will air at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 7, on NCAA.com. The NCAA Elite Eight will take place March 23-26 at the Great Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.
UMD has the fewest losses of anybody in the Central Region, and in a normal year, would have been a good bet to host, but in the era of COVID-19, regional tournament sites were predetermined to make sure protocols were in place.