St. Thomas and Gustavus set up star-studded title game

St. Thomas and Gustavus set up star-studded title game

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – They got there in very different ways, but in the end the championship-caliber rematch basketball fans were waiting for materialized Friday as the top-seeded University of St. Thomas and second-seeded Gustavus Adolphus College – a combined 51-1 this season – both won their 2017 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Playoff semifinals to set up a highly-anticipated title game between nationally-ranked teams.

Now, the Tommies and Gusties will square off head-to-head one more time with another championship on the line Sunday at 1 p.m. on St. Thomas' home court in St. Paul, Minn. UST's semifinal win pushed the nation's second-ranked team's perfect record to 26-0, while the Gusties – ranked No. 13 in the nation – are now 25-1 with their lone loss coming to St. Thomas, 75-69, on Feb. 1. That game had a Playoff atmosphere in St. Peter, and odds are Sunday's Playoff title tilt will have an extra-special championship environment as well. 

| PLAYOFF HOME PAGE |

Gustavus got a serious test from the team that's been just a step behind that elite duo all season – No. 3-seeded Bethel (22-5) – but the Gusties hung on and prevailed in a spectacular 72-67 (Box Score) semifinal Friday in St. Peter. The Royals hung with Gustavus all night, leading by one (33-32) at the half and when Hannah Johnson connected on a jumper the score was tied 57-57 with just 5:19 to play. However, Mikayla Miller got a pair of free throws and a fastbreak layup to put the Gusties up four, then answered a Bethel basket with a three-point play and Gustavus hung on from there to stave off the Royals' upset bid and earn a trip to St. Paul for the title game.

Miranda Rice led a balanced Gustie lineup with a monster 21-point, 12-rebound double-double. Justine Lee had 16 points, Miller added 15 and seven boards, and Hannah Howard scored 14, as four of Gustavus' starters scored in double figures and the team held a 41-32 edge on the boards. Abby Miller's 21 points matched Rice for the game-high and led Bethel. Johnson pulled down 15 boards and added 12 points for another Playoff double-double and Taite Anderson had 18 points and six boards in the loss.

In St. Paul, the Tommies earned their 26th-straight win to remain undefeated and advance to yet another MIAC Playoff title game with a 75-52 (Box Score) win over fourth-seeded Saint Benedict (16-11). UST stormed out to a 10-2 lead, but the Blazers hung tough and stayed within striking distance as halftime neared. However, St. Thomas closed the first half on a 6-0 run to take a 37-26 lead, and then added a 9-0 run early in the second half to pull away for good.

The UST frontcourt had a big night, as reigning MIAC Player-of-the-Year Kaitlin Langer was 7-for-12 from the floor en route to 19 points, five rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots, and Lauren Fischer added 17 points thanks to 5-for-6 shooting from behind the arc. Hannah Spaulding added 11 points off the bench for St. Thomas, which shot 56 percent from the floor and 46.7 percent from three. CSB had a trio of players in double figures, as Annie Dittberner scored 14, Niki Fokken added 11 points and eight rebounds and Kate Banovetz scored 10 points in the loss.

The tournament champion will receive the MIAC Playoff championship plaque as well as the conference's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. The NCAA will announce the national tournament field on Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m. with a live online selection show. St. Thomas is aiming to win its sixth-straight MIAC Women's Basketball Playoff title.

The MIAC has a home page dedicated to the 2017 MIAC Women's Basketball Playoffs, containing schedules, links and information on each of the six teams in the field. Throughout the tournament, the page will be updated with scores, stats, updated schedules and more. Fans can also follow the action on the MIAC Scoreboard or on the free MIAC mobile app. Connect throughout the Playoffs on social media through the MIAC's FacebookInstagram or Twitter accounts, using the hashtag #MIACWBB.


2017 MIAC WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS

Quarterfinals | Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 | 7 p.m. |
No. 3 Bethel 70, No. 6 Augsburg 56 | Box Score | Recap |
No. 4 Saint Benedict 53, No. 5 St. Catherine 50 | Box Score | Recap |

Semifinals | Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 | 7 p.m. |
No. 1 St. Thomas 75, No. 4 Saint Benedict 52 | Box Score | Recap |
No. 2 Gustavus 72, No. 3 Bethel 67 | Box Score | Recap |

Championship | Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 | 1 p.m. |
Semifinal winners at No. 1 St. Thomas | St. Paul, Minn. |


2017 MIAC Women's Basketball Playoffs