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IWU file for NCAA advance

Illinois Wesleyan forward Ashley Schneider goes to the basket against Wheaton in a game earlier this season at Shirk Center. Schneider and the Titans host Marietta College in an NCAA Division III Tournament first-round game Friday at Shirk Center.


BLOOMINGTON — Two of the highest scoring women's basketball teams in NCAA Division III — Illinois Wesleyan and Marietta College — will collide at 7 p.m. Friday at Shirk Center.

The occasion of their first ever meeting is the first round of the NCAA Tournament, which tips off at 5 p.m. Friday when No. 7 Trine (23-3) meets No. 12 DePauw (25-2). Friday's winners meet at 7 p.m. Saturday to battle for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.

Marietta (24-4) is a first-time NCAA qualifier while No. 14-ranked IWU (24-3) is making its 11th NCAA appearance and second straight. 

The Pioneers rank 10th nationally in scoring at 78.7 points per game while Wesleyan is fourth at 84.5.

"They are a really good shooting team," cautioned IWU coach Mia Smith, whose opponent shoots .419 from the field, .319 from 3-point range and .692 from the free throw line.

"They have a potent offense. Every player on their team can score. Their depth is pretty good in terms of offensive production."

Marietta went 16-11 last season, its best showing since a 20-7 campaign in 1989-90. Four starters returned this year along with nine of the top 10 scorers.

"We have really good seniors," said second-year coach Kole Vivian. "Last year, we ended the year really well (losing to No. 5 Ohio Northern by a point)."

Marietta opened this season with 12 straight wins.

"We've kind of been building up for this for a few years," said Vivian, whose leaders are 5-foot-7 senior Brooke Borich (14.4 ppg) and 5-3 senior Amisha Herd (13.7).

"Amisha is hopefully going to get the kids all riled up. She plays all over the court. She plays really hard on defense. She's a fun player to watch. She's a fun player to coach.

"Brooke has been scoring quite a bit for us. Things are going to be a little tougher on Friday because Illinois Wesleyan has a really good team and a really good defense, too."

The Pioneers of Marietta, Ohio, also start 5-9 junior Corrie Burkhardt (9.6 ppg), 5-7 junior Shay Lett (9.5) and 6-2 senior Jenna Andersen (6.4).

With talented guards, Marietta hasn't faced many presses. It commits 14.8 turnovers per game. IWU's run-and-jump press forces 24.7 turnovers.

"That's something we definitely have to work on," Vivian said. "I'll be surprised if we're able to keep Illinois Wesleyan in check. They've got a pretty good offense. They get a lot from that defense. We're going to have our hands full."

College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin player of the year Rebekah Ehresman of IWU rates Marietta, which climbed as high as No. 18 in the national poll, as a tough matchup.

"They score quite a bit so it will be a fun game," said Ehresman, who has battled the flu this week, but is expected to play if she is without fever.

"We will definitely have to work on the pick-and-roll because they use that a lot. We should be able to press them, maybe get them to turn the ball over."

If Ehresman (10.6 ppg) can't play, senior Kelsey Walsberg will start. Walsberg averages 5.0 points and has made 20 3-pointers, fourth most on the team.

Other starters will be Molly McGraw (13.5), Maddie Merritt (12.0), Nina Anderson (8.5) and Ashley Schneider (7.7). IWU will be without key reserves Raven Hughes (knee) and Sydney Shanks (wrist).

Trine of Angola, Ind., lost twice to No. 4 Hope and once to No. 1 Amherst. The Thunder are led by 5-9 junior Brandi Dawson (14.1) and 6-2 senior Hayley Martin (10.9).

DePauw's only losses were to Washington (Mo.) and Wittenberg. The Tigers of Greencastle, Ind., are led by 5-7 junior Maya Howard (15.3), 5-7 sophomore Sydney Kopp (12.3), 6-0 freshman Claire Keefe (11.6) and 5-9 senior Emily Budde (10.7).

Follow Randy Sharer on Twitter: @PG_sharer


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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