In their first NCAA Tournament action since 2012, the Maroons traveled to St. Paul, MN, to face Wartburg College on Friday night, with the winner advancing to face host University of St. Thomas the following day. After defeating No. 8 Wartburg by a score of 67–63, the Maroons’ season was cut short, falling to undefeated No. 2 St. Thomas in the Round of 32.
Kicking off postseason play against a Wartburg team that reached the national semifinals a year ago, the Maroons brought the intensity all night long. True to the scouting report, the Maroon defense was suffocating early, forcing 16 turnovers from the Wartburg team in the first 20 minutes. Catching fire in the first half was UAA Rookie of the Year first-year Miranda Burt, tallying 17 points and shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the arc. Burt would go on to finish with a career-high 23 points, three steals and four assists.
With an eight-point advantage coming out of halftime, the Maroon offense was stifled to just six third-quarter points. The Knights continued to chip away at the Maroon lead in the fourth quarter, taking a 59–58 lead with just under two minutes remaining. A key layup from second-year Ola Obi and ensuing steal from Burt gave the Maroons a three-point edge with 55 seconds remaining. Thanks to clutch free throw shooting from Burt and third-year Elizabeth Nye, the Maroons closed out the Knights 67–63, halting Wartburg’s championship hopes and advancing to face St. Thomas in a Saturday night showdown.
Less than 24 hours later, the Maroons were back on the hardwood to battle for a spot in the Sweet 16. After an action-packed first half, the teams remained deadlocked at the break. Trading baskets throughout the second half, the Tommies broke the 53–53 stalemate with an 11–2 run to take a 64–55 lead with just under two minutes remaining.
Refusing to go away, Chicago converted on its next five possessions, including a deep three-pointer from Burt that pulled the Maroons within four points with eight seconds left in regulation. After a layup and strategic free throw miss by All-UAA fourth-year Britta Nordstrom, the Maroons trailed the Tommies 71–69. But it was too late for the relentless Maroons as two St. Thomas free throws in the final second put the game on ice, marking the end of a decorated career for Nordstrom and fellow fourth-years Stephanie Anderson and Michelle Dobbs.
The Maroons conclude a remarkable season that saw the program’s most wins (19) since 2012 and an NCAA Tournament berth to match. As the senior class that finished with a .667 winning percentage and two UAA titles passes the torch to the next generation, the future of the program looks promising.
“It feels awesome to come in and have so much success right off the bat,” said Burt, one of the young talents that the program will look to moving forward. “So much credit goes to those who came before us and the upperclassmen who led the way all season.” Asked about the program’s outlook moving forward, Burt cited the fourth-years as trailblazers for the years to come. “The biggest thing they leave behind will be their great example of how to lead and work hard…if we follow their example, we should be able to pick up right where they left off.”