Wisconsin Lutheran Topples No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan in NCAA First Round

Lexi Reinke, Wisconsin Lutheran College
Lexi Reinke, Wisconsin Lutheran College

ST. PAUL, Minn. --- Amanda Brug scored a game-high 15 points off the bench to lead Wisconsin Lutheran College to a 48-40 victory over No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan University in an NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship first-round game at Schoenecker Arena.

Illinois Wesleyan (23-5) struck first on a basket by Maddie Merritt, but Wisconsin Lutheran (27-1) responded with nine straight points to lead 9-2 with 3:40 remaining in the opening frame. The Titans rallied, though, finishing the quarter on a 14-7 run capped by a Kendall Sosa 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to tie the game at 16-all.

Nina Anderson broke the tie with a jumper just under a minute into the second quarter to give IWU the lead, but a Kelly Tramburg 3-pointer on WLC's next trip down the court put the Warriors back in front. Wisconsin Lutheran held the lead the majority of the quarter but a layup by IWU's Raven Hughes tied the game at 25-25 with 1:23 remaining in the half. The Warriors scored the final four points to close out the half, however, as Brug made a pair of free throws and hit a layup inside the final 65 seconds.

The Titans scored the first five points of second half, taking a 30-29 lead on an Anderson layup with 7:12 remaining in the frame but would held scoreless the rest of the period. Jen Dowden responded with a 3-pointer on WLC's next possession. That score held for nearly five minutes before a Tramburg free throw at the 2:23 mark extended the Wisconsin Lutheran lead to three. Brug added a second-chance layup with 1:33 left to give the Warriors a 35-30 edge they would take into the final quarter.

Brug outscored the Titans, 5-2, to start the fourth, with Dowden extending the lead to a game-high 10 points with a layup with 7:07 left in regulation. The next 2:55 went by without a point being scored for either side before Sydney Shanks ended the drought with a layup at the 4:12 mark. Illinois Wesleyan was able to cut the lead to 44-40 on a Shanks jumper with 1:36 to play but Wisconsin Lutheran was able to drain four free throws down the stretch to keep the game out of reach.

Wisconsin Lutheran shot 36.7 percent (18-of-49) from the field compared to Illinois Wesleyan's 30.2 percent (16-of-53) effort. Compounding the Titans' issues was a 1-for-19 effort from behind the arc. WLC was 4-of-14 from long distance and held a 43-33 advantage on the boards.

Brug's game-high total came on a 6-of-9 shooting performance from the field. She was also 3-for-3 at the line and pulled down three boards. Tramburg added 11 points, seven rebounsd and four assists, while Dowden had 10 points, five steals, three boards and a pair of blocks.

Illinois Wesleyan was led by Anderson and Hughes, who had nine points apiece. Shanks, Sosa and Ashley Schneider each had six points.

Wisconsin Lutheran advances to Saturday's second round where they will face host No. 2 St. Thomas (Minn.) at 7 p.m. inside Schoenecker Arena.