Thomas More looks to defend Division III title against Tufts
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Thomas More is the closest thing that Division III women's basketball has to UConn.
The Saints (32-0) have a 65-game winning streak, have won 86 of their last 87 games and, like the Huskies, have a three-time national player of the year. They will look to repeat as national champions Monday when they face Tufts (28-3).
The Jumbos are led by a former UConn player, coach Carla Berube.
''Do we want to match what (UConn has) done, heck yeah we do,'' said Thomas More coach Jeff Hans. ''Are we going to? I don't know, it's challenges. It's a challenge every year.''
The Saints average 92 points a game, shoot almost 50 percent from the field and have four players who average in double figures, led by the nation's leading scorer in Sydney Moss, who scores better than 22 points a game.
They will go against a Tufts team that gives up just 44 points a game and has the second best defense in Division III.
The teams met in last year's national semifinals, with Thomas More winning, 62-52.
''We're not going to hold them to 44 points,'' said Berube. ''That would be really amazing, but I don't think that's going to happen, so we've got to score the basketball. We want to make it into a grudge match and hopefully defense wins.''
STOPPING SYNDEY: Moss scored 23 of Thomas More's 62 points a year ago against Tufts, grabbing 11 rebounds, with three assists and three steals.
''It's fun to see,'' said Hans. ''It's fun to coach. I think Abby (Owings, 15 points per game) and Olivia (Huber, (3.5 points) can tell you it's fun to play with her, because they know they better finish plays or they're not going to get a second chance. The length of the court pass, and if they don't make it, it's not going to come the second time. She'll keep it and score herself the next time, and that's your fault. But that's how she is. That's why she's number one in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. That's why she's led the country in scoring.''
NUMBER TO REACH: Tufts held Thomas More to 34.5 percent shooting a year ago, but the Jumbos shot just 28.6 percent from the field. Hans said he hopes his team can replicate that this year and score at least 60 points.
''MIDWEST ADVANTAGE? Thomas More players expect the arena to have a home feeling, with fans making the two your trip up Interstate 74 from Crestview Hills, Kentucky to Indianapolis. Tufts will have the support of a lot of UConn fans who have made the trip from Connecticut, including her former coach, Geno Auriemma, who has promised to be in the arena on Monday night.
But Berube says she wants to keep things as normal as possible, sho she's not asking him to talk to her team.
''I mean, I'm sure he could get us fired up, but I'll get us fired up,'' she said.