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NAIA DII Women's Basketball

Point Park draws No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan in national tournament first round

Feb. 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET

Emily Schartner and the Pioneers are in the NAIA DII national tournament again. Photo by Lyddia Ankrom.



VIDEO: PPU coaching staff reacts to first-round pairing (via student TV show Pioneer Sideline)


PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Point Park University will play the No.4-ranked team in the nation in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship.

The Pioneers (25-6, 11-4 KIAC) are a No. 8 seed and play No. 1 seed Indiana Wesleyan (30-3, 16-2 Crossroads League) in the first round on Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m. CT. It is the 15th of 16 first-round games March 6-7.

The 32-team bracket was announced on the NAIA Division II National Championship Selection Show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. via the NAIA Web site. The national tournament is scheduled for March 6-12 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

Download the PDF of the national tournament bracket at the link above. Watch a Video of the Point Park coaches Tony Grenek and Ryenn Micalletti with reactions to the first-round pairing via the student TV show Pioneer Sideline at the link above.

Point Park earned an automatic bid as the champion of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and is in the national tournament for the second time in a row. The Pioneers made it to nationals for the first time in progam history last year, and finished the season at 23-7 with a 60-58 loss to No. 10 Corban (Ore.) in the first round.

Indiana Wesleyan, located in Marion, Ind., is ranked No. 4 in the Final NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Poll that was released on Wednesday, just hours before the bracket was announced.

The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 up until this past week, but they dropped three spots when they lost to then-No. 4 St. Francis (Ind.), 54-48, in the finals of the Crossroads League Tournament.

Indiana Wesleyan earned its national invitation as the Crossroads League Regular Season Champion. It is the 11th national tourney appearance for the Wildcats, who are 18-9 there all-time. Indiana Wesleyan won the national title in 2006-07 and has made it to the final eight each of the last two years.

Although it has drawn a No. 1 seed and the No. 4 overall team in the bracket, it is a good matchup for Point Park in that Indiana Wesleyan is a similar team to the Pioneers. The matchup figures to be defensive-oriented game with a slowed-down pace, one where defense and ball control are the emphasis on both sides.

"It will be a great challenge to beat Indiana Wesleyan," Point Park second-year head coach Tony Grenek said. "But it doesn't matter who you play, everybody is good in the national tournament. They like to slow down the game, take care of the ball and grind it out with tough defense. That's what we like to do, so it is a good matchup for us."

Indiana Wesleyan ranks No. 1 in NAIA Division II in scoring defense at 48.2 ppg and is sixth nationally in turnover margin at +6.5. Point Park is also strong with defense and ball control as it ranks 10th in the country in scoring defense at 55.9 ppg and ninth nationally in turnover margin at +4.8.

Indiana Wesleyan does have an edge in offensive efficiency as its field-goal percentage of 44 percent ranks 6th in the nation. Point Park is much further down with 36-percent accuracy from the field. But the Pioneers found their offensive game in the KIAC Tournament and has four double-digit scorers to IWU's two.

Indiana Wesleyan is led by Paige Smith, a 5-11, senior forward who averages 16.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg and shoots 58 percent from the field. Senior guard Claire Ray is 5-8 and averages 10.4 ppg and a team-high 3.4 apg. Katrina Blackmon is a 6-1 sophomore who averages 9.4 ppg.

The Point Park-Indiana Wesleyan winner will play the winner of the No. 4 Purdue-Calumet (Ind.) (21-9) vs. No. 5 Grand View (Iowa) (21-6) in the round of 16 on Friday, March 8 at 8:45 p.m. CT.

The No. 2 seed in Point Park's bracket is College of the Ozarks (Mo.) (29-4), which is ranked No. 5 in the Top 25 Poll.

Point Park ended up with a No. 8 seed because even as the KIAC Tournament champions, it could not crack the NAIA DII Top 25 Poll in the final rankings that were released Wednesday. The Pioneers were No. 28 overall and in the 'others receiving votes' section. Essentially, the Pioneers were among the four lowest-ranked teams in the 32-team field, and thus a No. 8 seed.

For more information on the Pioneers in the NAIA Division II National Championship, check the Pioneers' Web site. Full tournament coverage will be provide throughout the week.

The NAIA will have live video online of the first 30 games of the tournament via NeuLion, its video-streaming partner. Click the "Get Access" button at the top of this page to access the pay-per-view video subscription.

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