Turnover in OT sinks Smith College in Sweet 16 loss to Wisc.-Whitewater

  • Smith College’s Jessie Ruffner, left, drives past Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Maggie Trautsch (11) during the Pioneers’ 78-76 overtime loss in the NCAA Division 3 Sweet 16 on Friday night in Whitewater, Wisc. SMITH COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Staff Writer 
Published: 3/12/2022 12:22:17 AM

Despite throwing everything at Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Smith College women’s basketball team fell just short in the NCAA Division 3 Sweet 16 Friday night.

It was a heartbreaker of a defeat, as a turnover on the final play of overtime resulted in a 78-76 loss to host Wisconsin-Whitewater.

With seven seconds to play in OT and the game tied, Smith’s Katelyn Pickunka tried to send a bounce pass over to Jane Loo out of a timeout but it was intercepted by Whitewater’s Rebekah Schumacher, who threw the ball directly to Aleah Grundahl. Schumacher sprinted up the open floor and got a perfect pass from Grundahl, picking up a fast break layup with just 0.5 seconds to go to punch Whitewater’s ticket to the Elite 8.

Whitewater also drained nine 3-pointers in the win and sank 27 of 36 shots from the free throw line. 

Morgan Morrison was a force for the Pioneers (25-3), posting a double-double with a career high 26 points and 12 boards off the bench in the losing effort. Jessie Ruffner and Ally Yamada scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, and Elle Jo Whalen scored 10 points and snagged six rebounds for Smith. 

Smith came out hard in the first period. After falling behind 6-0 to Whitewater, the Pioneers went on an 11-0 run to take an 11-6 lead with 5:31 left in the opening quarter. That five-point lead was the largest the Pioneers had all game; by the end of the first, the Warhawks had regained the lead and were up 19-18. 

The Pioneers stayed close in the second, trading the lead back and forth with the Warhawks all period. Whitewater tried to make a break early with a 7-0 run to take a 26-20, but the Pioneers clawed their way back. By the end of the first half, the Pioneers trailed by a basket, down 36-34. 

Smith tied the game twice in the opening minutes of the third and took a 40-38 lead off of two free throws from Ruffner. Morrison made it 42-40 after Whitewater tied it up, but the Warhawks went on a tear, outscoring Smith 11-2 over a four-minute span to make it 51-42 with 2:08 left in the third. Smith got back within four points by the end of the quarter, trailing 54-50 with their season on the line. 

Yamada and Morrison each got a basket to tie the game at 54 all, and from there it was a constant game of catch-up. Morrison hit a layup with nine seconds to go to tie the game at 65 and force overtime. 

Smith seemed to have the game in hand late in OT. After a couple back and forth possessions, Pickunka hit a jumper that gave Smith its first five-point lead since the opening quarter with 1:21 to go. After Smith’s Dashelle Gleissner and Whitewater’s Maggie Trautsch traded free throws, the Pioneers had a 76-71 lead with just 67 seconds go to. Trautsch hit five free throws over a 34-second span to tie it up however, and the Warhawks forced the turnover on the game’s final play that led to the game-winning transition bucket by Schumacher to punch a spot in the last eight.

Whitewater will host Wisconsin-Oshkosh for a Final Four berth on Saturday.

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