The sixth-seeded C-N women travel to Hickory, N.C. hopefully to stay Wednesday when they face off against SAC No. 3 seed Lenoir-Rhyne. The Lady Eagles (13-15, 9-9 SAC) and Lady Bears (14-12, 11-7 SAC) split games this season.
Carson-Newman took the first contest in Hickory 70-61. The Lady Bears got revenge on Feb. 12, winning 71-64 at Holt Fieldhouse.
"It's a good match up for us," C-N head coach Dean Walsh said. "We know what we have to do against an aggressive, well-coached basketball team. I feel like we're playing pretty well right now. The emergence of Rechelle Dye (Greeneville, Tenn.) at the point guard position has energized our team. It's picked our offense up. It's picked our offense up."
Dye has done much of her damage at the free throw line. The freshman guard is a tough competitor and ends each game with the bruises to show for it.
"She's a very physical point guard and a scoring point guard," Walsh said. "It's taken her more time than she thought it would. She's physical and fearless. As a coach, I don't like playing against physical and fearless point guards because they can cause trouble and she has. "
The Lady Eagles have been led all season by senior guard Mandy Mendenhall (Kingston Springs, Tenn.) who averages over 15 points per game. Mendenhall has stepped up her play as well as the tournament has moved closer, taking over multiple games late in the second half.
For Walsh, the outcome of this game will come down to three factors.
"There are three keys for us, stop Cameron Sealy, rebound the ball and defensive transition," Walsh said.
Sealy is averaging 18.3 points per game for the Lady Bears, but she's their only player in double figures.
Junior forward Zoriah Williams (Calera, Ala.) and freshman forward Shannon Depew (Newport, Tenn.) have secured the paint for the Lady Eagles, especially over the final games. Williams is averaging a double-double on the season with 12.8 points per game and 10 rebounds. Depew is close, with nearly 10 points a game and 7.2 rebounds.
After a disappointing regular season, the Lady Eagles must win the SAC tournament to qualify for the NCAA Division II tournament.
"Shannon Depew is playing a lot better," Walsh said. "Courdne Miles (Burlington, N.C.) has emerged. Zoriah Williams, Mandy Mendenhall, Katlin Moore (Fort Mill, S.C.) and now Rechelle Dye are all weapons for us. They know that we're 0-0 and going into tournament play on a high note. The team feels like it's comfortable right now."