NAIA Game of the Week – No. 1
No. 14 Benedictine (Kan.) (11-4, 3-0 HAAC) at No. 5 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) (11-1, 3-0 HAAC)
Saturday, Jan. 11 | 2 p.m. CST | Bell Family Arena | Olathe, Kan.
Live Stats | Live Audio | Live Video – Provided by MidAmerica Nazarene
• First place in the Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) is up for grabs Saturday, as No. 5 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) hosts No. 14 Benedictine (Kan.) at 2 p.m. CST in Bell Family Arena in Olathe, Kan. Both sides enter the week with 3-0 records in the league and have a Thursday night billing against a conference opponent before facing off this weekend. MidAmerica Nazarene travels to Evangel (Mo.), while Benedictine hosts Baker (Kan.).
• Saturday is the first of two regular-season meetings between the two Top 25 teams this season and the 49th meeting overall since Benedictine joined the HAAC in 1992-93. The Ravens lead the all-time series with a 26-22 record, however MidAmerica Nazarene has won three-straight and four of the last five.
• The Pioneers were selected to win their third-straight HAAC championship by the league’s coaches at the 2013-14 HAAC Basketball Media Day on Oct. 15. Benedictine, who last claimed a conference title in 2008, was picked to finish second.
• MidAmerica Nazarene has won 18-straight conference games dating back to last year. The Pioneers most recent loss in HAAC play came against Central Methodist (Mo.) on Dec. 8, 2012.
• Last season, the Pioneers qualified for the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship for the second time in program history after finishing with a 30-2 overall record and 17-1 mark in the HAAC. However, MidAmerica Nazarene failed to advance past the first round of the championship, losing to William Woods (Mo.), 79-75. The Pioneers also own four appearances at the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship.
• MidAmerica Nazarene (11-1) is 2-0 against ranked opponents this season with wins against then-No. 21 Columbia (Mo.), 86-68, on Dec. 12 and then-No. 16 Carroll (Mont.), 48-42, on Dec. 29.
• The Pioneers feature four individuals averaging more than 8.5 points per game, led by Daria Sprew’s 15.1 points per game average. Sprew, who has started all 12 games this season, has reached double figures in 9-of-12 games, including a current run of four-straight. Her highlight performance came against Johnson & Wales (Colo.) on Nov. 23, as the junior forward tallied a career-best 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Sprew enters Wednesday as the NAIA leader in field goal percentage, shooting 60.3 percent (70-of-116) on the year.
• Other individuals averaging double-digits for MidAmerica Nazarene are Kelsey Balcom (13.6 points per game) and Megan Balcom (10.5 points per game).
• As a team, the Pioneers are second in the NAIA in assists per game (19.8), while also ranking among the top 15 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (4th; 1.35), total assists (10th; 238), field goal percentage defense (10th; .343), field goal percentage (11th; .443) and rebound margin (13th; 9.5).
• Benedictine, which enters the week with an 11-4 overall record, is looking to rebound after going 1-1 over the weekend at the Johnson & Wales (Colo.) Classic in Denver, Colo. Prior to a 69-68 loss against unranked Arizona Christian on Jan. 4, the Ravens had won six-straight including an 81-74 upset victory at then-No. 2 Oklahoma City on Dec. 20.
• Last season, Benedictine ended the year with a 28-6 record that included a run into the second round of the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship. The Ravens, who had previously never appeared at the Division I championship, downed Bethel (Tenn.), 81-74, in the first round before falling to eventual semifinalist Cumberland (Tenn.), 65-54, in the round of 16. Benedictine had appeared at the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship five times and owns a 4-5 all-time record at the event.
• The Ravens are led by Justice Payne and Chayla Rutledge, who both average more than 15 points per game this season. Payne is Benedictine’s primary deep threat, shooting 36.2 percent (46-of-127) from 3-point range en route to ranking fifth in the NAIA in made 3-point field goals (46). The senior guard has scored in double digits in 14-of-15 starts. Rutledge paces the team with a .531 field goal percentage, which ranks 14th in the nation.
• As a team, Benedictine ranks among the top 15 nationally in total 3-point field goals made (9th; 112), scoring offense (12th; 1,150); assists (14th; 221) and 3-point field goals made per game (15th; 7.5).
Note – A special thanks to the Sports Information Departments at Benedictine and MidAmerica Nazarene for providing portions of the information above.
Additional Notes from Around NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball
(As of Jan. 8, 2014)
• Four teams remain unbeaten: Coastal Georgia (14-0), Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (12-0), Vanguard (Calif.) (11-0) and Jarvis Christian (Texas) (7-0).
• Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) enters the week as the NAIA leader in victories with 16.
• Six teams are still searching for their first victory.
• Vanguard has been ranked atop the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll in all three editions this season (includes preseason poll). Tuesday’s top billing is the 31st all-time for the Lions, dating back to 1999-2000. For the complete release, click here.
• Lindsey Abramson of Great Falls (Mont.) was named this week’s NAIA National Division I Women’s Basketball Player of the Week. For the complete release, click here.
• Lewis-Clark State head coach Brian Orr won his 300th game when the Warriors defeated Langston (Okla.), 81-67, on Nov. 9. Orr, the winningest coach in Lewis-Clark State history, is the 12th active coach to reach the 300-win plateau.
• Other Top 25 matchups this week:
o Thursday – No. 16 John Brown (Ark.) at No. 3 Oklahoma City
o Thursday – No. 8 Georgetown (Ky.) at No. 5 Campbellsville (Ky.)
o Saturday – No. 4 Westminster (Utah) at No. 18 Montana State-Northern
o Saturday – No. 21 Cumberlands (Ky.) at No. 5 Campbellsville (Ky.)