CHICAGO, Ill. (Blugolds.com) – While the 18th-ranked UW-Eau Claire women's basketball team led by 12 points with four minutes left in the game, a late push by Simpson College (Iowa) made the ending interesting, but the Blugolds held on to beat the Storm 69-61 at the Ratner Center today in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Championship.
Saturday, the Blugolds will take on No. 2-ranked and host University of Chicago (26-0). The Maroons defeated Monmouth College (Ill.) 75-68 in Friday night's first round game. Tip-off for Saturday's second round contest is slated for 7 p.m.
Eau Claire led most of the evening and found itself with a 12-point lead (63-51) with only four minutes remaining in the game. But the Blugolds' lead quickly evaporated as the Storm went on a 9-0 run with three three-pointers to cut the Blugolds' advantage to just three points (63-60) with two minutes left on the clock.
Over the final two minutes, the Blugolds regained their composure and outscored Simpson 6-1 the rest of the way. Eau Claire scored its final six points at the free throw line, where Leah Rempert (Jr.-Lake Geneva, Wis./Badger) went 5-for-6 in the final 30 seconds to give the Blugolds a cushion.
Ellen Plendl (Sr.-Chippewa Falls, Wis./McDonell) led the Blugolds as she recorded a double-double, her 16th of the season, with a game-high 21 points and 15 rebounds, which helped the Blugolds outrebound Simpson 51-40 on the night. Plendl also finished with a game-high six blocks.
For Simpson, Chelsie Rohrs led with 13 points while Stacey Schutjer secured a double-double with 11 rebounds and 10 points. She also blocked five shots and had three assists. Schutjer closed her career with 1,388 points, sixth on Simpson's all-time list. Her 712 rebounds rank third.
Simpson, which the Blugolds faced for just the third time in history tonight, ends the season with a 21-7 record. Eau Claire improves to 21-6 on the season and is 33-15 all-time in NCAA postseason contests.