CHICAGO — Top-seeded Utah Valley University will face Houston Baptist on Friday in one of two semifinals at the Great West Conference women's basketball tournament. Tipoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. MT from the Jones Convocation Center on the campus of host university Chicago State.
UVU (14-14,) earned the No. 1 seed as it claimed its first GWC regular season title with a 7-1 conference mark. The Wolverines topped HBU twice on their way to the crown, including a 59-46 win in Orem to clinch the regular season crown.
The Huskies (7-23, 1-7), seeded fifth in the tournament, advanced to Friday's semifinal by virtue of a 77-66 win over host CSU. Leading HBU's five double-digit scorers was Shanice Steenholdt with 20 points — 14 of which came in the first half. Tayler Jefferson finished with 13 points, while Rachel Arthur, Wiebke Bruns and Erin McGarrachan added 10 points apiece.
Steenholdt, a first team All-GWC selection, is the conference's leading scorer with an 18.6 ppg average. She also tops the Huskies in rebounding at 10.0 rpg.
Fellow sophomores Bruns and McGarrachan — who average 8.7 and 5.0 ppg, respectively — earned all-conference honorable mention.
"HBU has some weapons and I know we'll have to play controlled basketball to counter that," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "In the times that we've played well against HBU we have taken care of the basketball and we've been able to keep them out of the paint. We'll need to do that again Friday."
Senior forward and two-time GWC Player of the Year Sammie Jensen enters her final conference tournament with a double-double average of 17.6 points and 14.2 rebounds per game. Her rebounding average is good for second in NCAA Division I in that category. She is also putting up a remarkable 19.4 ppg and 17.0 rpg against conference opponents.
After missing the season's first contest against HBU due to an illness, Jensen exploded with career numbers in the season finale with the Huskies. She posted a career-best 32 points to go along with 19 rebounds — just three shy of her own program record. The scoring outburst came on 11-of-19 shooting, including a 10-11 day from the foul line.
Playing without Jensen at HBU on Feb. 2, the Wolverines got a pair of huge performances in her stead. Senior Kaycee Mansfield, who joined Jensen as a first team all-conference member this week, posted a career-best 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help power UVU to a 75-71 win.
Forward Mansfield is third on the team in scoring at 9.7 ppg and second in rebounding with 7.1 rpg. Those numbers have inflated during the conference season to 13.8 ppg and 8.5 rpg.
Also filling up the stat sheet in the game one win was Tina Doughty, scoring a season-high 30 points.
A guard, Doughty is the only Wolverine averaging double figures for the year. The second team All-GWC member is scoring at a 10.4 ppg clip, including a 39 percent mark from three.
The Wolverines are 2-1 all-time in semifinal match-ups at the conference tournament. In 2010, the first year of the GWC Championships, sixth-seeded UVU topped Texas-Pan American in the semifinal on its way to a tournament title. The Wolverines fell to Chicago State in the 2011 semifinal but defeated NJIT in last year's edition, advancing to the championship game.
UVU has never faced HBU in the GWC tournament but is 8-0 against the Huskies all-time.
With a win, the Wolverines will advance to Saturday's 3 p.m. championship game and would face the winner of the second semifinal between NJIT and UTPA.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.