Women’s Basketball Falls in NCAA Tournament

March 9, 2023

Last Thursday, the #15 nationally ranked Women’s Basketball team traveled to Lexington, Kentucky for the first weekend of play in the national tournament. Their first game was on March 3, against Emory University, where they defeated the Eagles 76-70 to advance to the second round of the tournament. 

The Big Blue started out slow, trailing 11-5 in the first quarter, and ended the quarter behind Emory, 17-15. The second quarter saw much more action from Millikin, and at half they led 43-33.

Midway through the third quarter, Emory tied the game at 43-43, before two buckets from junior Elyce Knudsen put Millikin ahead.

The Big Blue would lead for the remainder of the game, with Knudsen leading all scorers with 27 points. Senior Bailey Coffman added 17.

The Big Blue advanced to face the winner of Transylvania University vs. Rhodes College, which ended in favor of Transylvania, 58-45. The Transylvania team was 28-0 with a #2 national ranking going into the matchup against #15 Millikin. 

The Big Blue initially controlled the game, leading the Pioneers with buckets from Knudsen and seniors Chelsea McCullum and Abby Ratsch, before Transylvania rallied back to lead 17-13 at the end of the first quarter. 

Millikin was outscored 19-11 in the second quarter to trail at halftime, 36-24. The Big Blue came out of half with a dominating third quarter, outscoring Transylvania 22-10 to tie the game at 46 each going into the final quarter. 

Millikin missed their first six shots in the last quarter, allowing the Pioneers to take a lead and keep it for the rest of the game. The Big Blue lost 71-59, with Knudsen as their top scorer with 14. 

The loss ended an exceptional season for the team, and closed out the careers of the five seniors, Coffman, Ratsch, McCullum, Sarah Ness, and Miranda Fox. 

The team ended with a stellar 24-5 record, 15-1 in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). They were regular season CCIW champs as well as the conference tournament champions, and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. 

The final rankings of DIII Women’s Basketball have not been released, but the Big Blue went into the national tournament with a ranking of 15th in the nation. 

“I’ve got some kids that fought their hearts out tonight,” head coach Olivia Lett said after the loss. “I’m unbelievably proud of my three captains and five seniors that left it all on the floor tonight. They’ve changed this program from 16 wins their first year to making the NCAA tournament sweet sixteen and round of 32, with three conference titles as well.”

Bailey Coffman had some remarks about her career coming to an end. Coffman was a four year varsity player, and a three time All-Conference recipient. She suffered a broken jaw and a broken nose this season, but fought back to become a first team all conference selection and help lead the team to their second NCAA tournament in as many years. 

“I can let go of a basketball game, but thinking about going out with these seniors is really hard. This team is really special, these past few years have been amazing and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Coffman said.

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