Women’s basketball to face No. 1 Fort Hays State in NCAA tournament

The No. 8 Minnesota State women’s basketball team is set to take on the No. 1 Fort Hays State Tigers in their first round matchup in the NCAA Central Region Tournament. 

The Mavericks come into this matchup 21-6 overall on the season and 16-5 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

This is the seventh time in program history that the Mavs have made it to the NCAA tournament, and third time in head coach Emilee Thiesse’s career. In their brief history, the Mavs and Tigers have split their two games they’ve played at 1-1, with the most recent game being played in 2015 in Hays, Kan. in the first round of that year’s NCAA tournament. 

MSU’s last set of games were played in the NSIC tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Mavericks opened the NSIC tournament strong, defeating Southwest Minnesota State 89-65, before falling to the eventual conference champion Minnesota Duluth 66-69. 

The Mavericks are led by sophomore guard Joey Batt, who leads the team this season in points with 414 in 27 games played. Freshman guard Destinee Bursch is ranked second on the team in points this season with 314 in 27 games played. Batt was recently named to the NSIC All Conference First Team while Bursch was named NSIC Freshman Player of the Year. 

The MSU defense has shown to be a huge factor all year, which ranks fourth in the NCAA in turnover margin and steals per game. Batt leads the Mavericks this season with 69 steals, followed closely behind by senior guard Maddy Olson who has 62. 

On the offensive side of things, Minnesota State is ranked first in the NSIC and 12th in the NCAA in scoring, led by Batt and Bursch. As a team, the Mavericks average 78.7 points on offense and average 67.4 points on defense.

On the other side of the court, Fort Hays comes into the matchup sporting a 28-3 overall record and 19-3 in MIAA conference play. The Tigers are also just coming off a championship win in their MIAA conference tournament. Fort Hays is coached by Tony Hobson, who is in his 14th season with the program. This is also the sixth time in the past seven seasons that the Tigers have qualified for the NCAA tournament. 

The Tigers are led by freshman guard Katie Wagner, who leads the team with 407 points in 31 games played. Senior guard Whitney Randall is ranked second on the team in points with 342 in 31 games played.

Tip off between Fort Hays and Minnesota State is set for Mar. 11 at 5 p.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays, Kan. If the Mavs are to advance, they will take on the winner of Missouri Southern State and St. Cloud State on Mar. 12 at 7:30 p.m. 

Header Photo: The Mavericks enter the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in program history and the third time under current head coach Emilee Thiesse. (SPX Sports)

Write to Karson Buelow at karson.buelow@mnsu.edu.

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