JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Despite its worst shooting performance at home in over two years, top-seeded Carson-Newman advanced in the South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Championships with a 75-63 win over eighth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne Wednesday night at Holt Fieldhouse.
"They played zone a lot," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "I felt like a lot of the three's that we took were open and very makeable for us. We just never really got going. It was a weird vibe. We had the great environment on Saturday. It's a different animal right now. It's not really a one, eight. L-R is better than an eight seed. They could be good enough to be in the top four of our league. We knew it was a challenge. I'm just happy to get through the game and survive and advance."
Top seeds improve to a flawless 27-0 in the SAC Quarterfinals all time as Carson-Newman (27-2) runs its streak to 15 straight wins in a quarterfinal when hosting the opening round contest.
Lenoir-Rhyne (15-14) loses for a third time against C-N on the season marking the fourth time the Bears have fallen short against the Lady Eagles in one season and first since 2005-06.
It is the 21st straight home win for the Lady Eagles as C-N shot 37 percent from the field in the game after shooting 51 percent during the regular season at home. The last time the team was less efficient came on Feb. 20, 2016 in a loss to Wingate when the program shot 35 percent.
Mincey's club started the game on a 10-0 run as the Bears first made basket came with 5:09 to play on a right elbow jumper from Madi Suddreth. L-R scored 15 of 20 during that stretch to tie the game at 15. A three-pointer from the left win by Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) broke a 17-17 tie to give the home team a three-point lead after 10 minutes.
After a three-pointer by Briana Smith (Nashville, Tenn.) opened the margin to six points to start the second stanza, Lenoir-Rhyne rattled off seven straight points to go on top 24-23. C-N responded by using a 12-2 spurt to go on top 35-26. A pair of foul shots from Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) with one second on the clock made it a seven-point contest, 39-32, at the break.
Of the 19 games that Mincey's group had a lead when league play started, it was just the third time that the advantage was not double digits as the Bears hold two of those.
Kendall Toineeta buried a triple from the right corner to start the second half and get L-R within four points. C-N reeled off 14 of the next 16 to push the lead to 16 points at 53-37 with halfway through the period. The Bears made it a nine-point game with 2:36 to play in the third only to see Mincey's group score the final six points and expand the bulge to 15 at 61-46 with 10 minutes to play.
In the fourth quarter the Lady Eagles made just four of 16 shot attempts and missed their final 12 shots from the field but the Bears outscored C-N by just three points as the top seed put the game on ice.
Price stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists while going 5-for-10 from the field in the game.
Wester finished with a game-high 20 points on eight of 16 shooting from the floor while picking up four rebounds with three assists in 24 minutes.
Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) racked up her 11th double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds while giving out five assists on the night.
"At halftime we were a little frustrated," Marosites stated. "We are always in this gym and always shooting so we were going to keep shooting and playing hard. If we played defense we knew we could come away with the win."
Smith added 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in 27 minutes as one of four players in double figures for the top seed.
Coach Cameron Sealey's group was led by 14 points from Ashley Rodriguez. Casidy Joyner chipped in 13 points, six assists and five boards and Suddreth had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Advancing to the SAC semifinals, the Lady Eagles play at noon on Saturday at Furman University's Timmons Arena against fourth-seeded Lincoln Memorial. Broadcast coverage starts at 11:45 a.m. on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and cneagles.com/live.
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