SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The Mount Rushmore State provides the site for the 2018 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight as second-seeded Carson-Newman and seventh-seeded Union hit the hardwood at the Sanford Pentagon on Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the national quarterfinals for the first time in each school's history.
"When you get to the Elite Eight," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey discussed. "That's the beauty of it – you are going to face somebody that you aren't that familiar with and that you haven't played during the year. We aren't going to know the ins and outs of them and certainly they aren't going to know the ins and outs of us. The way they play and the way we play it could be an exciting game if both teams find their shooting rhythm in this gym."
Carson-Newman (32-2) is looking to become the first school from the South Atlantic Conference to win a game in the Elite Eight. The conference is 0-5 in the national quarterfinals as Tusculum lost in 2010, Mars Hill was bounced in 2002 and Wingate fell in 1995, 1996 and 2008. Tusculum is the only group to lose by single digits falling to Gannon 70-66.
A victory would also establish a program record for wins in a season passing the 1984-85 group that finished the year ranked third in NAIA with a 32-3 record. This season's team is the highest-scoring team with the most made triples and best free-throw percentage in the history of the school.
The Lady Eagles have captured the trifecta in terms of championships and are seeking to seize the superfecta this week in South Dakota. C-N sealed its first regular-season title in 21 years in the final game of the regular campaign, won its second tournament crown eight days later and took home its first regional trophy in the history of the school on March 12.
Three players have led Carson-Newman in a game in scoring during its seven-game winning streak during the stretch of trophy taking. SAC Co-Player of the Year Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) is in the top 50 in the country in field-goal percentage and 18th in total steals with 89. She played Union three times as a freshman in 2015-16 as the only player with experience against the Bulldogs.
Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) was the SAC Tournament and Southeast Region Tournament MVP upping her scoring average to 17.9 per game this year ranking ninth in America in field goals made with 250 on the season. She has three 20-point games and a double-double during the seven-game winning streak.
Rounding out the high scorers during the postseason stretch is sophomore Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) who registered a career-high 31 points in a win over Lander in the Southeast Region semifinals. She turned around and set the program record with 21 boards against No. 25 North Georgia in the title game as only five players in Division II have more boards than her 350 on the season.
The school has played a team from the Volunteer State 290 times prior to Monday holding a 210-80 overall advantage in such outings. Against non-conference Tennessee schools, Mincey has won seven straight since an 82-66 loss to Lee on Dec. 3, 2013.
The two programs have played nine times before Monday's Elite Eight showdown, all during the NAIA days, with C-N holding a 6-3 advantage having won each of the last five. The last time the two clubs met came on Dec. 3, 1992 at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn. when the Lady Eagles won 68-66.
During the 1980s, C-N ended Union's season on four occasions (1979-80, 1981-82, 1983-84 and 1984-85) including a win in the NAIA District Championship game in 1985.
Union won the regular season and tournament of the Gulf South Conference and is making its first trip to the Elite Eight since joining the NCAA ranks for the 2014-15 season. The Bulldogs won five national championships as members of the NAIA and one in the NCCAA ranks in 2014.
Coach Mark Campbell's team has won seven straight games since falling at Wester Florida on Feb. 17 by three, 80-78. His team has played four games against nationally-ranked foes going 2-2 in those games.
Chelsey Shumpert ranks fourth in the country in scoring at 24.1 points per game and set the Gulf South Conference's scoring record in the region title game. She needs 18 points for the best scoring season in school history as she trails Stephanie Clark's mark of 835 in 2004-05. The graduate student has made 104 triples, the third-most in the country on the year and has 13 games of at least 30 points.
With Shumpert posting 35 minutes per night, junior guard Jada Perkins is at 34 per evening ranking 10th in the country in assists per game at just under six per game while picking up 85 steals, 24th in Division II.
"They play a look like us," Mincey analyzed. "They rely on a lot of quick hitters, lot of ball screens. They have quick guards that can go on iso plays. One of the things we have been looking at is how we are going to guard their ball screens. I've learned as a veteran coach to watch the teams the played and how they handled it because they played them a lot. Obviously they weren't that successful because they are 31-3. Our blueprint isn't going to change a ton from what has gotten us to the Elite Eight."
As a team, Union is the stingiest team in the nation turning the ball over just 10.9 times per game on the year. Only Glenville State has made more three-pointers than the 341 by the Bulldogs on the year. Offensively, Union posts 80 points per game, ninth in Division II, and is 13th in field-goal percentage.
On the glass, only 12 teams average fewer offensive rebounds per game than Union's nine as the team registered fewer rebounds than its opponents on the year.
The Eagle Sports Network will provide the radio coverage locally on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live starting at 3:15 p.m. with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off". There will be a live stream available by clicking here for the feed on NCAA.com.
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