ANDERSON, S.C. – Two of the top eight scoring teams in the nation battle Friday night at 7:30 p.m. from Anderson's Abney Athletic Center in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Women's Basketball Championships as fourth-seeded Carson-Newman takes on fifth-seeded Lander in a rematch of a 2018 regional semifinal.
"Kevin does a great job," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "They are one of those teams that is always in the regional talk and always in the NCAA Tournament. Lander is going to be there and that's why we have them on the schedule in the regular season because we want to play some of the best teams in the region. There's a lot of history of between us. If we weren't in our home gym last year they probably would have beat us.
"They are playing really well. They had a lead against Columbus and gave it that lead up and lost in the semis. It will be a very challenging game. They are very athletic, have a lot of foot speed, can shoot it and can get after you. If we don't bring it and play physically tough it could be a long evening for us."
After winning the Southeast Region in 2018 and going to the Elite Eight, the Lady Eagles are in the tournament for a second-straight season for the second time in program history joining the 2008-09 and 2009-10 teams. It is the third time in the tenure of coach Mike Mincey that the Lady Eagles are in the NCAA Tournament.
Limestone is the only school since the inception of the Southeast in 2009 to win back-to-back crowns doing so as a seven seed in 2014 and as the top seed in 2015. Clayton State has the most winning three over a five-year period from 2009-13.
In 14 postseason games since joining Division II, Carson-Newman (22-7) is 6-8 having won the first round contest in 2005, 2010 and 2018. Three of the wins came last season and two came in 2005 when it was a member of the South Atlantic Region losing the final to Shaw 67-53.
A school from the South Atlantic Conference has advanced to the Elite Eight on six occasions with Wingate going in 1995, 1996 and 2008. Mars Hill advanced to the national quarterfinals in 2002 and Tusculum made a trip in 2010. No program has won a game in the Elite Eight in those six outings.
Overall in the 10 years of the Southeast Regional, top seeds have won five crowns, seven seeds have won three, with third-seeded Clayton State in 2009 and fourth-seeded Lander (22-8) in 2012 taking home the other two. Five titles have been won by the Peach Belt, three by Conference Carolinas and two by the SAC.
Lander is Carson-Newman's tournament opponent for the third time as the teams met in the Southeast Region semifinals a season ago with the Lady Eagles winning 96-85 behind 31 points and 10 rebounds from Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.). She went 12-for-16 from the field and six of seven from long range.
The other meeting came back on March 13, 2010 when the Bearcats handed the Lady Eagles their worst loss in tournament history, 94-67 in the region semifinal, and in the series history.
After the program had been 2-5 against the Bearcats all-time through 2010, Mincey has led his troops to a 6-1 record in the series with the lone loss coming in Harrogate on Nov. 12, 2016 to 21st-ranked Lander by a tally of 68-53.
Carson-Newman has won five consecutive neutral site games against teams from the Southeast Region since losing in the SAC semifinals to top-seeded and 11th-ranked Lincoln Memorial on March 4, 2017, 72-67.
The Lady Eagles are led by senior guard Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.), one of three All-SAC picks and one of four players averaging double figures.
"Lander is a very athletic team," Price said. "They love to run and push the tempo but I think we push our tempo as well. It will be a very competitive game as long as we take care of the ball. We are a very veteran team and have a lot of people back from the team that did make the Elite Eight. I think it will be a complete team effort to win all three games. I think we really have our mindset ready going to Anderson."
The Bearcats are in the tournament for the fifth-straight campaign and 10th time in 14 years under coach Kevin Pederson. They are one of three programs to reach a Southeast Region final three times doing so from 2010-12 winning the 2012 title. Limestone and Clayton are the other two institutions with Francis Marion being the fourth and final school to reach the region final at least twice.
Lander, the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, rattled off nine wins in-a-row from Jan. 16 to Feb. 13 but is 4-3 over the last seven games losing to sixth-seeded Columbus State 86-83 in the PBC semifinals on March 9.
Few teams were as good as the Bearcats were at home going 13-1 ripping off wins in each of the final 10. However, the Bearcats were 9-7 away from the home court averaging nearly a dozen fewer points shooting nearly five percentage points lower from the field and six from long range.
With Carson-Newman ranking eighth in the country in scoring, Lander is one tick above posting 82.8 points per game on the season. The Bearcats have scored at least 80 on 19 occasions going 17-2 with the losses coming to the Cougars last week and to C-N.
"It could be a high-scoring affair," Mincey said. "We have to make sure we don't let them get easy stuff to the rim. You have to take care of the basketball. If you want to have a good chance of beating Lander, you have to take care of it. When we beat them here we only turned it over 12 times back in November and I think they only turned it over 12 times as well. It was a very high scoring game in the first half. If we make shots we have a good chance of winning."
Pederson's crew ranks in the top 10 nationally in seven categories including assists per game (17.7), steals per game (11.5) and turnover margin (plus-7.1). Teams are turning it over 22 times per night while the Bearcats are posting less than 15.
Jessica Harris is the Peach Belt's Conference Player of the Year, the fourth in school history. She is in the top 20 in the country in six areas ranking 12th with 84 steals, 15th in made free throws with 150 and 20th with 5.2 steals per game. After being limited to 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting in two meetings last season, she scored 22 points adding seven assists, five rebounds and four steals in the first contest this year.
Coverage of the contest can be found locally on 106.3 WPFT-FM starting at 7:15 p.m. with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off" on the Eagle Sports Network. Audio and video streams can also be found by visiting cneagles.com/live.
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