STEVENS POINT, Wis. -- In a national semifinal battle of a top-10 offense versus a top-10 defense, the defense won out, but FDU-Florham still produced enough scoring to advance past Tufts and reach its first NCAA Division III national championship game. The Devils overcame an ice-cold start to extended their unbeaten season with a 42-39 victory against the Jumbos at Quandt Fieldhouse.
Tufts' (30-2) second-ranked defense set the tone early on, as the Jumbos held the 10th-highest scoring offense in the country to just one field goal in their first 18 shot attempts. Still, FDU-Florham (32-0) only trailed 11-6 when Kyra Dayon broke the string with consecutive baskets, the second coming with 9:29 left in the half. The Devils clawed their way back attacking the basket inside with Kyra Dayon and Shalette Brown. Jalessa Lewis put FDU-Florham even with a bucket with 14 seconds left to forge a 22-22 halftime tie.FDU-Florham took their first lead on a 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper by Kyra Dayon for a 27-24 lead with 18:25 to go in the game. Those two buckets sparked an 11-2 run which put the Devils ahead 33-26 with 14:53 to play. Tufts trimmed the Devils advantage to 35-32 on a Michaela North layup and an Emma Roberson layup with just under 12 minutes to play, but FDU-Florham got a layup and a free throw from Lewis and a steal and a layup from Shalette Brown to take their largest lead of the game at 40-32 with 8:30 to go.
Tufts responded by scoring the next six points capped by two Roberson free throws at the 6:30 mark. FDU-Florham scored their final points of the game with 3:32 left, which set the stage for one of the nation's top offensive teams to flex their defensive muscles. The Devils held the Jumbos without a field goal in the final seven minutes of the game. Tufts' North was fouled down low with 23 seconds left, but only converted one of two free throws and FDU-Florham retained a 42-39 lead.
With 14.8 seconds left Tufts' Roberson made a huge play to tie up the ball on a Devils baseline inbound, giving the Jumbos possession. Tufts called their final timeout with 9.0 seconds to play to setup their final play, trailing 42-39. However, the Devils' ball pressure nearly resulted in a steal and Hannah Foley's off balance 3-point shot at the buzzer sailed long.
FDU-Florham was led by Kyra Dayon who scored 17 points on 8-for-18 shooting. Teammate Shalette Brown scored eight points and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds, which allowed the Devils to win despite shooting just 27.6 percent from the field.
FDU-Florham pulled down 19 offensive rebounds for the game. Lewis finished with seven points and two assists, the only two assists for the Devils on the night.
North led the Jumbos with 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench, as Tufts' starters combined for just 16 points. Kelsey Morehead had seven points, three assists and played every minute of the game. Roberson had six points and five rebounds. The Jumbos shot 34.8 percent, but turned the ball over 19 times. Tufts ends its first trip to the NCAA Division III semifinals with a record of 30-2.
FDU-Florham will attempt to become the second consecutive team to win an undefeated national title, joining DePauw in 2013. The Devils will meet Whitman in the final on Saturday.