SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Trailing by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, second-seeded Carson-Newman had six possessions to tie or take the lead in the final 2:08 but could not get a bucket to fall as seventh-seeded Union eliminated the Lady Eagles from the Elite Eight with a 73-70 triumph Monday afternoon at the Sanford Pentagon.
"We came out in the second half and did much better" Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "We changed up our press a little bit trying to get the ball out of No. 1's hands and finally got the ball to go in the basket a little bit better than in the first half. And once we got into a groove, I saw, what I feel like, is the real team, the real Carson-Newman team that we've seen all year long. And you know I'm proud of these guys. I'm proud of our team. We'd expended a lot of energy, clearly, to get back to that point. I felt like we did a good job of trying to win it down the stretch. We just weren't able to make the necessary plays to get it done and Union did."
It was a nine-point affair with 9:11 to play at 65-56 before an 8-2 run by C-N made it a one possession contest at 67-64. The teams traded buckets until Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) hit a jumper from the left block with 2:08 to go to equalize at 70.
A turnover by the Lady Eagles on the next possession allowed Chelsey Shumpert to make a foul shot and put the Bulldogs back on top by a point. C-N missed its next two shots as Shumpert added another foul shot.
After Sara Lytle made a foul shot to make it a three-point game with 2.8 seconds to go, Katie Stubblefield (Alcoa, Tenn.) passed the ball to Briana Smith (Nashville, Tenn.) on the left wing. Her last second 25-footer was a tad too strong off the right side of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Carson-Newman (32-3) finishes the year by matching a program record with 32 wins on the season and setting the SAC record for wins in a season besting the prior mark by four while South Atlantic Conference schools are now 0-6 in Elite Eight games.
Union (32-3) wins the 10th meeting between the two schools in the first since 1992 while advancing to the Final Four to take on sixth-seeded Central Missouri on Wednesday night.
The Lady Eagles scored the first points of the game on a jumper from Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) before going the next 3:34 without points as Union captured a 5-2 edge. The two sides swaps leads three times as Chelsey Shumpert hit a driving layup in the final five seconds to put the Bulldogs on top 18-16 after 10 minutes.
It was a part of an 8-0 run as Anna Lee Little buried three staright triples from the left wing in the opening two minutes of the second quarter to push the lead to double digits at 27-16 with 7:36 to go in the half. It was an eight-point game, 32-24, with 3:24 to go in the half when Union closed on an 11-3 spurt to stretch the lead at the break to 16 at 43-27.
The 16-point differential was the largest halftime deficit at the break for C-N who trailed by no more than five this year. It was the second-largest margin that the Lady Eagles trailed by on the year as Union shot 52 percent from the floor.
The Bulldogs push the lead to 21 at 55-34 with 5:59 to go in the third when Mincey's crew started to show some signs of life. A 15-1 run pulled C-N with seven at 56-49 with 2:34 to go in the third. The Lady Eagles made their final eight shots from the field but a three-pointer from the left wing by Kyvin Goodin-Rogers made it a nine-point contest, 63-54, entering the fourth.
Five players scored in double figures for the Lady Eagles as Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) paced the scoring with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.
"They mean the absolute world," Price refllected. "They don't put up big numbers but the leadership that they passed down to the juniors and sophomores, that's something that we will take into next year. I just wish them the best of luck."
Marosites finished with her 12th double-double of the season going for 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Wester tallied 11 points and five caroms.
Smith scored 16 in the game with five boards and Stubblefield made five of seven from the field to tally 11 points and a career-high nine rebounds.
After making eight of 17 in the first half from long range, the Bulldogs went 3-for-14 in the second half from beyond-the-arc. C-N shot 51 percent in the second half after making just over 25 percent of its shot in the first 20 minutes.
Shumpert led all scorers with 24 points going 9-for-22 from the field. Kyvin Goodin-Rogers tallied a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards. Lytle and Little added 11 points apiece.
"[Our seniors] have meant so much to our program," Mincey said. "They aren't the leading scorers on our team. They aren't our leading rebounders but they are the glue guys. They gave these guys a lot of leadership on and off the floor. We would not be in these position in the Elite Eight if we didn't have those seniors."
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