March 13, 2009

Courtesy of Tusculum Athletics

HICKORY, N.C. - Five players scored in double figures and Stephany Neptune nearly recorded a triple-double, as the No. 16 Tusculum College women’s basketball team (26-5) avenged its loss to Lander University (20-11) in last year’s NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional with an 87-70 victory in Shuford Memorial Gym on Friday afternoon. The win marks the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament victory in its second national postseason appearance.

Tusculum won the battle on the glass throughout the game, ending the contest with a 49-34 edge in rebounds. The Pioneers shot at least 50% for the 10th time this season, knocking down 50.8% of their attempts from the floor while holding the Bearcats to a 34.2% clip from the field.

Jasmine GunnJasmine Gunn poured in a game-high 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while Neptune and Kat Spears each recorded a double-double to pace the Pioneer attack. Neptune scored 16 points and hauled down 10 rebounds to record her 13th double-double of the season and extend her streak of five or more boards to 66 consecutive games. Spears recorded 15 points and 10 boards for her second straight double-double and fourth of the season.

Neptune dished out a career-high seven assists while Gunn registered six helpers to move within one of fourth on the all-time list at TC with 365 career assists. Nikki Van Dine connected on four three-pointers for 12 points while Shantae Shank chipped in 13 markers for the Pioneers.

Shannon McKever led the way for the Bearcats with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting while hauling down a team-high seven rebounds. TaSheba Butler added 14 points, while Mukia Myrick and Ciara Lyons chipped in with 12 and 10 markers, respectively. Jasmine Judge dished out a team-high four assists in the game.

Tusculum never trailed on the afternoon, scoring the game’s first four points and opening the contest with a 9-4 run over the initial three and a half minutes. Lander tied the score at 9-9 on a three-pointer by Nardia Robbins with less than 16 minutes remaining in the half. Tusculum responded with a 9-4 run to open an 18-13 lead on Shank’s layup at the 10:55 mark, and closed out the half with a 20-14 scoring edge over the final 11 minutes of the period to hold a 38-27 advantage heading into the intermission.

The Pioneers carried the momentum into the second half, opening the final 20 minutes with a 10-4 spurt to take a 48-31 lead on Ashli Oliver’s 374th career three-pointer at the 18:42 mark. Lander would cut the lead to nine at 48-39 with an 8-0 run over the next two minutes, before the Pioneers countered with an 8-2 spurt of their own to extend the lead to 56-41 with less than 15 minutes to play. Tusculum closed out the win with a 27-22 scoring edge over the final 12 minutes to notch the first NCAA Tournament victory in the program’s history in its second tournament appearance.

Tusculum now awaits the result of the quarterfinal matchup between three-seeded Clayton State University and sixth-seeded Carson-Newman, and will face the winner on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the semifinal round.