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Westminster basketball: Griffins open NAIA Tournament play against St. Catharine on Thursday

By Josh Fisher

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 10:46 a.m. MDT

Cydney Tibbitts goes up for the layup. Tibbitts and the Griffins face St. Catharine on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. MST in the first round of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championships.

Shooting Star Photography

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SALT LAKE CITY — The fifth-ranked Westminster College women’s basketball team will begin play in the 2013 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship on Thursday when it faces St. Catharine (Ky.) in a first round game. Tipoff from the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky., is slated for 10:30 a.m. MST.

Westminster is the No. 2 seed in the second quadrant of the 32-team bracket. The Griffins qualified for the tournament by winning the Frontier Conference Tournament. This is the team’s seventh consecutive trip to the national tournament. St. Catharine is making its first-ever trip to the NAIA National Championship after earning one of the final at-large invitations to this year’s field.

The Westminster Athletics Department will be showing the games live in the Shaw Student Center again this season. Fans can also follow the Griffins on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates about which games are going to be available in Shaw.

Westminster heads to Kentucky at 27-3 on the season and as winners of the Frontier Conference regular season and conference championships. They Griffins defeated Carroll (Mont.), 63-48, on March 4 to win the school’s first conference tournament title. This is the fifth straight season the Griffins have won the Frontier’s regular season crown.

The Griffins will head to the neutral site tournament having gone 2-0 in games played on a neutral court during this year. They defeated Eastern Oregon 60-59 on Nov. 23 and then knocked off San Diego Christian 60-40 on Dec. 28. Westminster is 15-2 in all games played away from the Behnken Field House this season.

Westminster is scoring 64.77 points per game to rank second in the Frontier Conference. The Griffins are first in the league in field goal percentage (43.9%), free throw percentage (73.1%) and place second in 3-point field goal percentage (34.2%). Westminster makes a Frontier-best 6.33 treys per game and ranks first in assists per game at 16.37 and assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.28, which is second in the NAIA.

On the defensive end, Westminster leads the country by allowing just 46.47 points per contest. Griffin opponents shoot just 34.1 percent from the field, seventh in the NAIA, and only 28.5 percent from beyond the arc. They are sixth in scoring margin (18.3), second in rebound defense (30.1), 31st in steals (10.0) and 16th in turnover margin (4.17).

Thursday’s game will mark the first-ever meeting between Westminster and St. Catharine. The Griffins went 2-0 against first-time opponents during the season, picking up wins over Southern-New Orleans and Oklahoma Baptist.

Of the 32 teams that qualified for this year’s tournament, Westminster played seven during this current campaign. The Griffins went 6-3 in those games including a perfect 3-0 against the teams in their quadrant in Westmont (Calif.), Xavier (La.) and Rogers State (Okla.).

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