Tusculum clutches SAC tourney title
HICKORY, N.C. -- Tusculum College won its second consecutive South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament championship with a 77-66 victory against Wingate University at the Catawba Valley Community College Multipurpose Complex Sunday afternoon.
SAC Player of the Year Jasmine Gunn scored 23 of her game-high 25 points in the first half for the Pioneers (21-8), who will be making their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament.
Jasmine Parker added 17 points for the Pioneers, and Kendal Baxter came off the bench to tally 12 points for top-seeded Tusculum, which never trailed after Gunn hit a 3-pointer in the game's first 30 seconds.
Kurie Washington led the second-seeded Bulldogs (19-01) with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Sarah Wollett and CC Brooks chipped in with 11 points apiece. The Bulldogs shot 44.4 percent (20-for-45) from the field as a team and went 21-for-27 from the foul line, but committed 15 turnovers which the Pioneers converted into 19 points.
Tusculum senior center Catherine Hintz was honored as the SAC Tournament Most Valuable Player after averaging 15.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in three tournament games. Gunn and Parker also represented Tusculum on the All-Tournament Team, along with Wollett and Brooks from Wingate.
Gunn scored 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting in the first half as Tusculum bolted to a 42-31 lead at intermission. As a team, the Pioneers converted 53.6 percent of their first-half shots (15-for-28). Wollett led Wingate with nine first-half points, but the Bulldogs shot 35.3 percent (6-for-17) in the opening 20 minutes.
After Parker hit a jumper with 19:47 to go to put the Pioneers up 44-31, Wingate responded with a 17-6 run to cut the deficit to 50-48 on a fast break layup by Simone Rutledge with 10:17 remaining. Tusculum answered with a 17-5 flurry, taking a 67-53 lead on a Baxter triple at the 4:36 mark. Wingate would get no closer than nine points in the waning moments.
The Pioneers shot 48.1 percent from the floor (26-of-54). Thanks to Gunn, Baxter and Brittni Oliver, the Pioneers finished 6-for-11 on 3-point field goals (54.5 percent). Wingate shot 50 percent in the second half (14-of-28) and 44.4 percent for the game (20-of-45). Overall, the Bulldogs made 5-of-10 from downtown (50 percent).
Tusculum also thrived at the free-throw line, shooting a season-best 95 percent (19-for-20) from the stripe as a team including 11-for-12 in the second half. The Pioneers committed just nine turnovers, but were outrebounded by the Bulldogs by a 31-27 margin.
With her 25 points, Gunn became the all-time leading scorer in the SAC Tournament with 202 points in 12 games, breaking the previous mark of 180 points set by Susie Hopson of Mars Hill from 1993 to 1996. She also tied the conference record of 124 career games played established by Anna Atkinson of Wingate from 2005 to 2009.