S.C. Aiken fends off Tusculum
Harris scores 17 points as Lady Pacers advance
MORROW, Ga. – Third-seeded USC Aiken downed a pesky sixth-seeded Tusculum College 69-63 Friday afternoon in the first quarterfinal game of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tournament hosted by Clayton State University.
USC Aiken (27-5), the No. 8-ranked team in the country, will face the winner of second-seeded Lander/seventh-seeded Wingate at 5 p.m. Saturday in the semifinal round. The tournament championship is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday. The winner of the Southeast Region will advance to the Elite Eight to be held in St. Joseph, Mo., March 22-23 and 25.
The Pacers placed four players in double figures led by Kayla Harris’ 17 points. Harris connected on 6-of-11 floor shots, including 2-of-5 3-pointers. She also made 3-of-4 free throws. Hannah DeGraffinreed added 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Deandra Schirmer had 12 points and eight rebounds and Nakia Pinkney 12 points.
Tusculum was paced by Jasmine Gunn’s game-high 20 points and nine assists. She connected on 5-of-16 floor shots and 8-of-9 free throws. Kendal Baxter and Catherine Hintz both added 13 points.
Down 58-51, Tusculum rallied to tie the game at 58-58 with 3:10 left to play. Jasmine Parker sank two free throws, Hintz completed a three-point play and Gunn added another two from the foul line.
DeGraffinreed connected on a field goal and two free throws to move USCA back up 62-58 with 1:42 left when she was fouled on a driving layup.
Gunn retaliated with two free throws to trim the lead to 62-60 at 1:07, then completed a three-point play with 30.7 seconds to make it 64-63.
Forced to foul the Pacers, Tusculum could only watch as USCA’s Schirmer made two free throws and DeGraffinreed hit one to give USCA a 67-63 lead with 20.2 seconds left.
Baxter missed a long 3 with 9 seconds left and USCA’s Pinkney ended the scoring with wide open layup with 3.1 remaining.
After five lead changes to open the game, USC Aiken’s Schirmer put the Pacers up 8-5 at 15:31 then they stretched the lead to 16-8 when Nakia Pinckney nailed a 3 with 10:53 left in the half.
The Pioneers cut the lead to 18-17 at 6:08 on a layup by Baxter, a putback by Linda Aughburns and a Baxter 3.
USCA then went on a 10-run on two baskets each by Daniela Tarailo and Harris and another Pinkney 3-pointer to take a 28-19 lead with 1:30 left.
USCA connected on 25-of-59 field goals for 42.4 percent, including 6-of-19 3s for 31.6 percent. The Pacers also made 13-of-17 free throws for 76.5 percent.
Tusculum, the defending Southeast Region champion, was 22-of-53 from the floor for 41.5 percent, including 6-of-9 3s for 66.7 percent. The Pioneers also sank 16-of-18 foul shots for 88.9 percent.