INDIANAPOLIS – The affirmation of a dynasty can be affirmed tonight inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But, it’s probably not the one that you’re thinking of.
On a weekend when Connecticut is poised to win their fourth straight D1 women’s basketball national title, BR-1 Thomas More (32-0) enters tonight’s D3 Women’s Basketball National Championship game against BR-2 Tufts (28-3) with a 66 game winning streak and a quest for back-to-back crowns.
To get there, however, the Saints will have to get past a Tufts team they defeated 62-52 in last year’s national semifinals.
“We have an idea of what they do and they have an idea of what we do,” said Thomas More sophomore guard Abby Owings.
The biggest challenge for Tufts, however, will be trying to contain Sydney Moss, the three time D3 player of the year.
“She’s a very dynamic player,” said Tufts senior guard Emma Roberson. “She can play inside, she can play outside. But, I think we’re really lucky to have some of the best defenders in Division III who can also play on the inside and outside (Melissa) Baptista.”
The Jumbos defense, which allowed 44.8 ppg during the season, will be put to the test against Moss and a Saints team which ranks second nationally in D3 with 92.2 ppg.
“We’re not going to hold them to 44 points,” Tufts head coach Carla Berube admitted. “We’ve got to score. We want to make it into a grudge match and hopefully defense wins.”
With the Thomas More campus in Kentucky just over the Ohio River from Cincinnati, the Saints could have a decided home court advantage with Bankers Life Fieldhouse just two hours away via Interstate 74.
“It’s going to be huge,” Moss said. “Having family and friends and everybody in the stands supporting us will be huge.”
Berube saw that first hand when the Saints defeated Tufts’ NESCAC rival Amherst 74-65 at the National Semifinals in Columbus, Ohio on March 19.
“They had a lot of fans in Columbus,” Berube said. “Maybe it won’t be as loud, but it’s really great to see a program like that with that kind of following. They’re excited about basketball in Kentucky.”
That’s not to say that the Jumbos are intimidated. After all, as Berube notes, Tufts has won on the road in hostile environments five times during the tourney.
“Being able to pull out a win at Scranton [in Sectionals] with a packed house and then moving on to the semifinals and beating a really strong Wartburg team who had been playing some really great basketball was just part of a great run,” Berube said.
The Tufts women were forced to play their first two rounds at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine because of a scheduling conflict.
“It was tough to play in opposing gyms, but we got used to it,” Berube said. “It didn’t faze us.”
The Jumbos, however, are expected to be well represented in Indianapolis tonight.
“I think we’ll have our own fans as well and we’ll have a lot of alumni come and our families,” Berube said. “I think we’ll have a good showing as well. It’s been a fun ride so far and the culmination will be this game Monday night.”