Swarming defense paces #3 C-N’s domination of Catawba

VIDEO: Mike Mincey Interview

VIDEO: Jecca Simerly Interview

SALISBURY, N.C. – Third-ranked Carson-Newman delivered its best defensive performance of the season hold Catawba to 22 percent shooting an 80-49 runaway triumph in Goodman Gym Saturday afternoon in South Atlantic Conference play. It marks the lowest percentage yielded by a C-N group since Livingstone shot 18 percent on Nov. 25, 2006.

"I thought we did a great job early on," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "They were playing without Terri [Rogers] unfortunately for them. We had advantage there with them playing without their leading scorer. We knew that even though they were undermanned we had to do our part. We tried to jump on them as best we can early."

The victory matches the program's high win total for a season a Division II member with the 25-8 campaign of 2004-05. Carson-Newman (25-1, 17-1) also resets a new benchmark for SAC wins in a season with its 17th.

Catawba (13-12, 11-7) has lost four straight to the Lady Eagles for just the second time in the history of the series. C-N won the first four meetings of the series in 1990-91 and has now matched the longest winning streak against the Indians.

In the opening three minutes, C-N scored the game's first eight points. After Marshauna Butler hit a triple from the left wing for Catawba to make it 8-3, C-N scored 11 unanswered to start the game with a 19-3 lead. Mincey's group forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter turning it into 16 points to lead 26-10 after 10 minutes.

Four of the first six points of the second stanza went to the visitors. C-N surged holding Catawba without a bucket for nearly three minutes while using a 14-0 scoring run to open up a 44-13 advantage on an and-1 from Tori Griffin (Strawberry Plains, Tenn.). The Indians answered by scoring eight straight all by Talia Barnes. The third-ranked team in the country went into the locker room ahead 51-27.

"In the season that we are in, I am trying to soak it in," Mincey reflected. "I know it's a tough place to play. We have had some hard losses over here. We are very blessed right now. We have a very good roster of players. I think it's a matter of being grateful for what we have and not thinking about that one loss."

In the first four minutes of the third quarter, C-N scored seven straight points as the Indians waited to put the ball in the cup on a jumper from the free-throw line by Butler with 6:10 to go in the period. Overall Catawba scored eight points, the fewest by any C-N foe on the year, in the third frame as the Lady Eagles held a 67-35 lead with 10 minutes to play.

The final period was not much better for Catawba as the group missed its first eight shots from the field before getting a layup from Toni Tucker. In the second half, Catawba went 5-for-34 from the field, 15 percent. A three-pointer from 25 feet at the horn by Kaitlin Stevenson prevented the largest margin of victory in the series.

A trio of Lady Eagles scored in double figures as Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) led all players with 20 points going 9-for-14 from the field with six rebounds and three assists. The junior became the 20th Lady Eagle in the history of the program to score 1,000 points in a C-N uniform with a jumper from the left elbow in the second quarter.

Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) added 17 points, four boards and four helpers. Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) registered 10 points, five rebounds and five steals.

Jecca Simerly (Talbott, Tenn.) produced her ninth career double-digit rebounding effort with a game-high 10 as she added five points and three blocks.

"It's really special," Simerly said of being a part of this year's team. "There are a lot of special people on this team. I've never been on a team that I've had this much fun playing with. I am happy to be a part of it. This is a really hard to place to play and we knew that coming in and that it would take 100 percent effort to win here."

Carson-Newman won the rebounding battle 49-46 for the 16th straight game this season while scoring 27 points off of 19 Catawba giveaways.

Barnes was the only Indian to score in double digits with 14 points. Serena Brown entered the game averaging 12 points per game and was limited to four points on one of 10 shooting.

The unit hits the road for the final time in the regular season Wednesday night at 6 p.m. with the short jaunt up to Harrogate to face Lincoln Memorial. Coverage starts at 5:45 p.m. with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off" on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and cneagles.com/live.

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