The SMS women’s basketball team did something that’s never been done and their chance at an NCAA bid is in jeopardy because of it. The Lady Bears became the first number one seed in Missouri Valley Conference Tournament History to lose in the first round, by falling to tournament host Illinois St. 61-57 on Thursday. With ten minutes remaining in the contest, SMS held a 49-38 advantage. Then Illinois St. went on a 23-8 run the rest of the way to spark the upset. The long balls weren’t dropping for the Lady Bears, which lead the NCAA with a 43.9 percent average from the three-point arc. They hit just 5-of-27 threes on Thursday. Kari Koch had 18 to lead the Lady Bears, while Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Jenni Lingor pitched in 16 points and nine boards.
So what’s next for SMS? An agonizing wait. Their early exit and 20-8 record will make the Lady Bears a bubble team for the NCAA selection committee. The Bears earned automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The 64-team field will be announced on Sunday night. If SMS isn’t selected, they’re a mortal lock to be a part of the WNIT’s field of 32.