Expect fan- friendly pace in women's showdown vs. Simpson
Though Buena Vista University is hosting just one track meet this weekend - an indoor meet Saturday at Lamberti Recreation Center - the BVU and Simpson women's basketball teams may be holding a track meet of their own Friday night at Siebens Field House.
The matchup pits two teams who run the floor relentlessly and have enough depth to do it for 40 minutes.
There's also much at stake, with Simpson 9-0 in league play and BVU 6-1.
Though the conference is balanced this season, it may be a must win for the Beavers. If they drop Friday night's game, they'll need some help from other teams if they want to win the regular season IIAC title.
Both teams are riding wins streaks. The Beavers have shot the lights out of Iowa Conference gyms over the past five games, all wins.
Simpson has a nine game win streak going, including a come-from-behind, two point win over Luther last Tuesday. The Storm also beat Luther by two (64-62) in Decorah Jan. 4.
According to BVU coach Janet Berry and Simpson's Brian Niemuth, Friday night's game is a must-see for any basketball fan.
"Both teams push the ball up the court, and us and Simpson are the deepest teams in the conference," Berry said Wednesday morning.
"A huge key will be not letting them get easy baskets in transition. We'll also have to deal with some of their pressure defenses."
In the past, Berry said, Simpson teams have been balanced in a number of categories, including scoring, rebounding, and points in the paint and from the perimeter.
"In that respect, this is a typical Simpson team," she said. "They don't have one standout scorer, but they have three kids averaging in double figures and a few more that are close."
Niemuth typically uses eight or nine players regularly, he said Wednesday. He plans to start 5-foot-8 junior Tessa Van Osbree and 5-8 senior Dana Johnson at the guards, 5-10 sophomore Kateyly Whiton and 5-10 senior Heather Kay at the forwards and 6-foot sophomore Ashley Katch at center.
Whiton leads the Storm in scoring (12.7 ppg.), with Kay averaging 10.6 ppg. Van Osbree averages just over seven points per game.
Simpson, meanwhile, has to deal with probable All-American guard Katie Maguire, who leads the IIAC in scoring (19.2 pg.), assists (7.13 pg), and free throw percentage (82.2 percent). She's also second in three-pointers made (39).
"Katie's the best player in our conference, and obviously, she's going to score her points," Niemuth said. "What we want to do is make her work hard for every basket she gets."
The Beavers haven't missed a beat since losing senior forward Kelli Staley to an ankle injury. Even though Simpson, with Katch in the middle and two 5-10 forwards, will have a size advantage, Niemuth thinks the battle of the boards will be fairly even.
"BV is so athletic and quick to the ball when they rebound, so that might negate our size advantage," he said.
"I think our biggest key will be limiting their three-point baskets," Niemuth said. "The BV kids always seem to shoot well on their home floor. Their gym is a very tough place to play just like ours is."
BVU also has players who can score big on any given night. Senior forward Jess Griggs averages 10.3 ppg. with Tracy Hartwig averaging 9 ppg.
The teams are evenly matched offensively.They're the top two offensive teams in the Iowa Conference, with BVU averaging 83 pg. and Simpson 75.6 pg.
The Storm is tied with Luther as the top defensive team, allowing 55.4 ppg. BVU allows an average of 71.1 ppg.
For BV, perimeter shooting will be a key. Relying on outside shooting is sometimes a risky proposition, but Berry says her team has a handful of strong perimeter shooters to pick up the slack if someone isn't connecting.
BV leads the IIAC in three-point field goal percentage (138-336 for 41 percent). Simpson has attempted just 207 three-pointers but made 76, or 46 percent.
Simpson doesn't hurt itself with turnovers. It leads the conference in turnover margin (a plus 6.33) and assist-to turnover-ratio (.98).
One intangible may be how Simpson reacts after an emotional two-point win at Luther Tuesday.
"I think our kids will be ready," Niemuth said. "We have a lot of respect for the BVU program, their coach and their players. But we're looking forward to Friday night. It should be a great college basketball game for fans."