JEFFERSON CITY- For the second time in as many days, the Carson-Newman Lady Eagles took to the court to face a nationally-ranked team and for the second straight day, the result was the same- a big win.
A day after knocking off No. 12 Delta State, the Lady Eagles held serve on their home court and downed the 15th-ranked Bearcats of Lander and claimed an exciting 88-82 overtime victory Sunday afternoon at Holt Field House.
With the win, the Lady Eagles improve to 4-1 and may now garner national attention after downing two ranked teams in consecutive days. The Bearcats suffer their second loss of the season and fall to 3-2.
Carson-Newman used a balanced attack and Lady Eagles head coach Mike Mincey said his team may be laying the foundation for what could be a special season. "I see six in double figures and we almost had two more do that. That's spreading the wealth and if we can play team basketball like that, I think we can compete with some of the better teams in the country. On our home court for two days, we went toe to toe with two of the best teams in the country."
The game was close throughout as the score was tied 12 times and changed hands 15 times. The Lady Eagles had their offense in high gear and finished the game with a 53% (31-of-59) field goal percentage. C-N forced 21 Lander turnovers and turned those miscues into 29 points. Carson-Newman built a 40-36 lead at the half but Lander came back to out-score C-N 39-35 in the second frame. The Lady Eagles turned up the defensive pressure in the overtime period, limiting the Bearcats to only seven points while scoring 13 of their own.
The Lady Eagles got a balanced attack as six different players finished the game in double figures, led by Zoriah Williams' 14 points. Whitney Moody (11), Courdne Miles (10) and Shannon Depew (13) who all had big games for C-N. Rechelle Dye came off the bench to have 12 points and Nikki James also added 11 points as a reserve. Lander was led in scoring by Ciara Lyons and Precious Elkins who each had 17. Jasmine Judge had 15 points for the Bearcats and Brittni Johnson chipped in 12.
The Bearcats seemed to be in control of the contest as Johnson's three-pointer with 2:29 left in regulation gave LU a 75-69 advantage. But the Lady Eagles kept chipping away and tied the game on a three-pointer by Megan Hunter and a Williams' lay-up with 33 seconds left.
The Lady Eagles jumped out to an early lead in the extra period but Lander later cut the lead to a single point when Kaylan Smith scored on a jumper with 1:11 remaining to make it 83-82. But Carson-Newman responded with big baskets by Rachelle Dye to produce the 88-82 final.
Dye had some of the biggest plays in the overtime period as she had a basket, a steal and two assists. Mincey said Dye's play was one of the main factors in the win over Lander. "We went down six points in the second half and for us to withstand that, get some stops on the defensive end and come back and tie it up and send it to overtime was huge. Then it was the Rachelle Dye show. Coming off those high ball screens was big. What a trooper she was in the overtime period."
The Lady Eagles begin South Atlantic Conference play Wednesday night as they host Catawba at 6 p.m. Mincey said the success of this weekend's games will prepare his team for the SAC schedule. "This will give us some confidence going into the Catawba game. We knew we would have to play an 'A' game today against Lander and we did. I like where we are right now."