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Two-hour delay, Cumberlands cannot stop Thomas More women in NAIA finals opener in Sioux City, Iowa

By Dan Weber
NKyTribune sports reporter

So you’re all ready for your debut in the NAIA National Championship Women’s Finals Basketball Tournament at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, and it’s 23 minutes until tipoff.

And then Thomas More’s defending NAIA champion Saints had to put the game on hold. A sudden leak in the roof was making the floor unplayable.

“They told us it would take an hour,” Thomas More Coach Jeff Hans said. It took two hours.

“All we could do was sit around,” Hans said. But after an hour, he had his players go sit in the stands with their families and just wait it out.

TMU senior Courtney Hurst and Coach Jeff Hans

“I thought we handled it pretty well,” Hans said of how his team came back from the two-hour delay before the leak was patched for the third matchup of the season against a Cumberlands (Ky.) team and a fellow Mid-South Conference member even if it was a bit of a slow start.

Down 18-13 after the first period, the Saints got it into gear big-time behind junior super-sub Alex Smith for a 55-30 outburst over the second and third periods leading to a final 91-61 romp, their third win in three games against Cumberlands (24-8) this season.

Senior Emily Simon’s 18 points in the first three periods on the way to a game-high 23 were crucial to that offensive outburst for the now 29-3 Saints.

“I thought we were pretty comfortable,” Hans said of the return to a leaky Tyson Center, “after the first quarter, we got going.”

But the No. 1-seed Saints took No. 5-seed Cumberlands’ Patriots out with their defense as well, limiting the MSC team to nine second-period points.

“I think the key was our defense,” Hans said. “We made them take contested shots, we rebounded and got our offense going. And we shot the ball well.”

For the game, Thomas More outshot Cumberlands, 49.2 percent (32 of 65) to 39.3 percent (24 of 61), as well as from three-point range, 42.8 percent (12 of 28) to 23.1 percent (three of 13). TMU also hit 83.3 percent (15 of 18) from the free throw line.

Six different Saints hit a pair of three-pointers.

TMU Saints with their NAIA final ticket

The Saints committed just five turnovers with seven steals to Cumberlands’ 12 turnovers for an 11-5 scoring edge there.

But if there was one place that TMU displayed its superiority, it was in bench points with a 50-23 scoring edge there as junior Mattison Vickers added 12 and senior Sammi Whiteman nine in addition to Smith’s 12.

“We try to be balanced,” Hans said, “that’s one of the things we try to do.”

For the starters, senior Zoie Barth scored 10 points with six rebounds, second only to Simon’s seven. Junior guard Rachel Martin led TMU with five assists.

With all 14 Saints playing, no one was on the floor for more than the 29 minutes of senior starter Courtney Hurst.

“We were fortunate to be in a position to rest some of our players,” Hans said, looking at the possibility of playing three more games this week.

With the win, Thomas More moves on to face Montana Western in Wednesday’s 9 p.m. ET quarterfinals. Montana Western (28-5) was an 89-79 winner in the late game over Dordt (Iowa), the team Thomas More beat in last year’s championship game.

CUMBERLANDS (Ky.) 18 9 21 13—61
THOMAS MORE 13 28 27 23–91
CUMBERLANDS (Ky.) (24-8): Monday, Kas. 17, Monday, KAY. 8, Steele 7, Burke 14, Potter 2, Haworth 4, Kendrick 0, Allison 0, Fredricks 4, Coleman 0, Caldwell 0, Lewis 5, Cox 0, TOTAL: 61.
THOMAS MORE (29-3): Simon 23, Smith 12, Barth 10, Whiteman 9, Hurst 6, Jones 9, Vickers 12, Martin 2, Lillard 2, Turner 0, Brenner 6, Noel 0, Morgan 0, Hunt 0, TOTAL 91.

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