December 31, 2022
By Riley Zayas,@ZayasRiley
Let me start by saying this. The day that we had in D3 women’s basketball yesterday I can only equate to the feel of an NCAA Tournament slate. We had scores from nationally-relevant games coming in throughout the day, plenty of on-the-edge-of-your-seat finishes, and a good number of unranked teams challenging Top 25 opponents. You really did not know what to expect from one game to the next, and that is the sort of slate we very well may not see again until March. 18 Top 25 teams were in action. Two of them lost, and five won games by less than 10 points. That should give you an idea of the sort of day in was with so much action playing out at one time. I guarantee you that come tournament time, we will still be talking about at least a few of yesterday’s results.
I didn’t know where to start with this, so I figured I should just go from the top…literally.
- Top-ranked NYU was truly tested for the first time on Friday afternoon, in a 2020 NCAA tournament rematch with Bowdoin that certainly lived up to the hype. It was like a chess match from start to finish, both teams executing their offenses with remarkable effectiveness and poise. Both shot above 40 percent from the field (41.2% for Bowdoin, 49.2% for NYU) and it really came down to a few big forced turnovers from NYU late in the fourth quarter that kept Bowdoin from retaking the lead. Bowdoin turned the ball over twice with less than 1:20 left, but at no point did the Violets fully pull away. The lead changed hands a whopping 36 times and I was very impressed by the way both sides found ways to stay in the game with the pressure mounting. A 16-of-28 performance at the line is something NYU will need to improve on, but overall, the Violets got a very nice showing from Belle Pellecchia, who shook off a disappointing performance at Tufts in mid-December with 22 points. She is once again in the All-America conversation. Sydney Jones had 28 for Bowdoin and all signs are pointing towards her having a huge season for the Polar Bears.
- Bowdoin’s fellow NESCAC rival Trinity (CT) pulled perhaps the most impressive win for an unranked team on Friday, taking down #13 Springfield ON THE ROAD, 58-45. Winning at Springfield is hard to do, but here’s the stat that jumped off the page in my opinion: Trinity outrebounded Springfield, 52-29. Yes, you read that right. Reilly Campbell and Emma Wax were exceptional on the boards, with 11 rebounds apiece. Springfield had just three second-chance points. When you can do that on the defensive end, you’re going to win nine times out of 10. The defensive effort was what impressed me the most about this big win for the Bantams. We know they can score, but solid defense will take you a long way in a deep conference highlighted by Amherst, Tufts, and Bowdoin.
- Oh, and it’s probably time to expand the “NESCAC contenders” list beyond those four. Because Hamilton is making waves. The Continentals already boast wins over St, John Fisher and Rochester, and nearly shocked #8 Baldwin Wallace on Friday, falling 72-65. Hamilton actually led (at Baldwin Wallace), 51-50 heading into the fourth quarter. Credit to BW, who really turned it on in a 22-point fourth quarter, but I was very impressed by the way Hamilton approached this game. I had BW #5 in my unofficial Top 25 this past week for good reason, and aside from the Trine game back in November, hadn’t seen the Yellow Jackets tested the way they were Friday. Taylor Lambo had 28 points for Hamilton, 14 in the fourth, in a solid offensive performance. Hamilton gets another shot at a top-level team, when it plays at Ithaca on Monday. They’ll get Amherst and Trinity (CT) back to back on the road come late January.
- So what did Baldwin Wallace do right? The Yellow Jackets were balanced, and let their depth power them to victory. 12 players played at least nine minutes, and performances like Kira Philpot coming off the bench to score 11 points in 19 minutes really drove BW to victory. The fourth quarter is when things really started to click, but I’d argue the Yellow Jackets’ best run came in the closing minutes of the second, after Hamilton had established a 33-21 lead. BW roared back, mounting an 11-1 run to go into halftime trailing by just two, 34-32. Obviously it would have been a much different story had that run not happened, and BW had gone into halftime down 12, or possibly more.
- #9 Babson had a bit of an upset scare on their home court against Middlebury (another NESCAC program that could make some waves in conference play), and was tied 42-42 entering the fourth quarter. Babson put 19 points on the board over those final 10 minutes, and held Middlebury to just 10, but it was not a very convincing performance overall from Babson. The Beavers actually trailed 28-20 at the half, and could not really get anything going consistently on the offensive end. They had looks at the rim, but were unable to finish in the paint. 21 turnovers did not help either. We’ll see where Babson ends up in the next Top 25 poll, but I won’t have them in my Top 10. Chances are, this was a bit of the holiday break showing its effects, which is understandable. I’ll be interested to see how they fair against Tufts, Springfield and Hamilton (in that order) in mid-January.
- Funny enough, for all the great basketball that was played, just one Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchup was on the slate. That was #7 Scranton’s home duel against #19 Tufts, a game that Scranton prevailed in, 68-59. Maggie Russell had 24 for Tufts, but it just wasn’t enough to take down a Scranton team that remains undefeated. Scranton led by a single point entering the fourth, but a 9-0 run created some significant separation. Tufts did not score for the first five-and-a-half minutes of the fourth, which isn’t a stat you want in a Top 25 matchup. Side note: I’ve heard of small rotations but Scranton might have the smallest rotation I’ve seen this season, playing just eight in this one. That says a lot about the stamina of the starting five, four of whom played 30+ minutes. Just six of the Lady Royals’ 68 points came from the bench.
- In non-Top 25 news, UW-Stout lost its second straight game, as WashU rebounded nicely after a one-sided loss to UW-Oshkosh on Thursday. That looked like a completely different WashU team and I really liked the defensive effort, which didn’t seem to be there in full force against Oshkosh. Stout shot just 25% from the field.
- Loras didn’t need to do anything else to earn a Top 25 spot in this next poll. Their recent wins alone qualify them for a spot, possibly in the Top 20. We’ll see. But the Duhawks went above and beyond on Friday, completely dominating a UW-Stevens Point team that had wins over UW-Platteville, Millikin, Wheaton and Luther. Loras won 85-58 as Sami Martin put 17 points in the board. Loras has so many scorers, I’m not sure opponents know who to focus on. The Duhawks had five players score in double figures!
- Concordia-Moorhead is officially on my Top 25 watch list. I would not be surprised to see them challenge Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC this year. After beating #6 Amherst in double overtime, the Cobbers pulled out a 40-point, 82-42 win over Salve Regina at the D3hoops.com Classic Friday afternoon. Salve Regina is not a great team, but entered the matchup 7-2. The Cobbers filled up the stat sheet, shot 43.3% on 30 three-point attempts, and scored 33 points off turnovers. The ball movement offensively was especially strong, and gave way to plenty of open three-point shots. Remember, this is a team that beat Gustavus Adolphus earlier in the year as well.
Okay, I’ve officially maxed out as much as I can write. And there were still some pretty notable games that I didn’t get a chance to mention, like Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ OT win over Illinois Wesleyan. That’s the sort of banner day it was for D3 women’s basketball yesterday. A remarkable set of games that I really can’t say enough about. Kudos to all the coaches who have approached these tough schedules head-on. As always, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or drop a comment below. I’ll be sure to respond. And while you’re at it, subscribe for free on Substack if you haven’t already! Enjoy your Saturday!