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Owls set sights on OWU for NCAC Quarterfinal

GAMBIER, Ohio — After wrapping up the regular season at home on Saturday, the Kenyon College women’s basketball team is set to make its way to Delaware, Ohio, to take on Ohio Wesleyan University in the quarterfinal round of the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament. The postseason matchup is scheduled to tip off at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at OWU’s Branch Rickey Arena.

The Owls and Battling Bishops will square up for the second time this month after opening February with an NCAC contest at Ohio Wesleyan on February 4. OWU has come away victorious in each of the two matchups between the teams this season, winning 76-44 on January 4 and 94-66 on February 4. 

Ohio Wesleyan holds a slight 55-43 edge in the all-time series with Kenyon, including seven straight wins. Kenyon had compiled a stretch of eight consecutive series victories spanning from 2015-16 to 2018-19, but the Battling Bishops flipped the script in the opening round of the 2018-19 NCAC Tournament. Kenyon, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, hosted the matchup, but No. 6-seeded OWU orchestrated an upset with a 63-52 victory in Tomsich Arena.

The Owls will have a chance to return the favor this season as they are the No. 6 seed, while OWU is seeded third. Kenyon secured the sixth seed after posting an 8-17 overall record that included a 4-10 mark against NCAC competition. The Owls navigated a new-look season that included a new coaching staff, new players, and an injury to one of their top players. After opening the 2022-23 campaign with a thrilling win on their home court in the season opener, Kenyon endured a 1-7 stretch. However, the resilient Owls bounced back with three wins in four games. They eventually finished the regular season with sweeps over Hiram College and The College of Wooster, the NCAC Tournament’s seventh and eighth seeds, respectively.

Ohio Wesleyan earned the right to host the quarterfinal game after compiling a 15-10 overall mark, including a 10-4 record against NCAC foes. The Battling Bishops swept Denison University, Kenyon, Hiram, and Wooster in the NCAC while suffering season sweeps against Wittenberg University and DePauw University, the tournament’s top two seeds.

The three-point shot has been a weapon for both Kenyon and Ohio Wesleyan this season. Kenyon is third in the NCAC in opponent three-point percentage allowed (28.5%) and fourth in three-point shooting percentage (30.2%). The Owls and Battling Bishops are tied for second in total triples made after hitting 141 apiece, a per-game mark of 5.6. OWU is second in three-point percentage (30.8%) and fourth in three-point defense (28.5%). 

The similarities do not stop there, as the NCAC’s top two leading scorers will be facing off in the matchup. OWU’s Kasey Schipfer leads the way with 17.5 points per game, while Kenyon’s Katie Orefice ranks second at 14.6 points per game. Claudia Cooke, who has been out with an injury throughout February and has missed both games against OWU, ranks second in the NCAC with 9.2 rebounds per game, while Schipfer slots into third by averaging 8.5 boards. The Battling Bishops also boast the conference’s assist leader in Elizabeth Homan, who dishes out 5.8 per game, over two more than second place. Orefice ranks fourth amongst NCAC assist leaders with 3.4.

The winner of Tuesday’s quarterfinal matchup will advance to the NCAC Tournament Semifinal on Friday, Feb. 24. The NCAC Tournament Championship is scheduled to be played the next day on Saturday, Feb. 25. Both games will be played at DePauw or the site of the highest remaining seed after the Quarterfinals.

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