To the Sweet 16: NYU women’s basketball advances in NCAA tournament

The Violets extended their win streak to 13, and reached the Sweet 16.


The NYU women’s basketball team defeats Greensboro College and Messiah University.(Courtesy of NYU Athletics)

Miller Romm, Staff Writer

NYU women’s basketball has advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III women’s tournament after a successful weekend, picking up two wins against Greensboro College and Messiah University. Neither team could keep up with the Violets as they dominated from tipoff, defeating Greensboro 71-54 on Friday night and Messiah 62-41 the following day.

This now marks back-to-back seasons that the Violets have won at least two games in the NCAA tournament. 

Beyond the raw numbers, the Violets’ success this season has been recognized by the University Athletic Association. The team nearly swept the conference’s awards with junior forward Natalie Bruns winning UAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, sophomore guard Bella Pellecchia picking up her second straight Defensive Player of the Year and first-year guard Caroline Peper bringing in Rookie of the Year honors after her phenomenal campaign. 

Bruns was the only player in the UAA this season to rank top 11 per game in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage, assists, blocks and steals. She also broke the NYU single-season block record this year, and recorded a triple-double in a 77-52 win over Carnegie Mellon on Jan. 27. Her stats included 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks, which tied the UAA single-game block record.

“It’s obviously very exciting, especially with the level of talent that was in the league this year,” said Bruns of winning Player of the Year. “This award made me thankful for my team — they were incredibly supportive and proud when it was announced, and I would not have won the award if I didn’t have such talented teammates and coaches.”

Bruns showed her talent this weekend in both games. On Friday against Greensboro, she registered 29 points and controlled the glass with 15 rebounds. The Pride tied it at 7-7 in the first quarter, but after that it was all Violets. They led by as many as 23 points and even outscored Greensboro 46-24 in the paint, with Bruns playing a critical role in that. 

“My teammates continued to get me the ball when I was making shots,” said Bruns. “We’re really versatile so when our 3-point shots aren’t hitting, we’re going inside.”

NYU did not stop there, as the team took on Messiah one day later and once again dominated the court. Despite another poor performance from three, going 1-10, NYU outscored Messiah by 16 in the paint. The Violets also held the Falcons to 0-8 from three and 19-61 from the field. NYU restricted Messiah’s transition offense as well, and held them to zero fast-break points. Senior Jenny Walker led the team with 24 points and added nine rebounds of her own. 

As in their win against Greensboro, NYU once again led for the majority of the game. After the Falcons started the game on a 4-0 run, the Violets responded with a 10-0 run and never looked back, leading the rest of the way. The Violets’ biggest lead was by 27 points in the fourth quarter, and the game was another runaway victory for a very resilient and well-coached NYU team. 

“We definitely came in with a defensive game plan and a defensive mindset,” said head coach Meg Barber after the game.

NYU will face a formidable Trine University team on Friday, who defeated Washington University 79-69 in its first round matchup. The Violets split the season series against WashU this year, showing how tough this Thunder team is. NYU will have their hands full with Trine’s Sidney Wagner, who is averaging just about 15 points per contest and an impressive 2.2 steals per game. 

Despite the uphill battle to the Elite Eight, the Violets remain confident in their championship dreams.

“With a win streak, it feels the same in the locker room,” said Peper. “We are just locked in on our goal of getting to the national championship. We are locked in game by game and ready to push the streak.” 

Contact Miller Romm at [email protected].