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David Boyce | | January 15, 2016

Division II basketball: Crucial game awaits Nova Southeastern

  Taylor Buie led Nova Southeastern in scoring with a 15.1 average during her sophomore season.

Nova Southeastern junior guard Taylor Buie figures a lot of family and friends will be excited to see her and the rest of the Sharks play Florida Southern at 2 p.m. ET Saturday. Her family and friends won’t have to make the trip to the NSU Arena in Fort Lauderdale to see it.

The game will be televised on ESPN3 as the NCAA Division II Basketball Game of the Week. The men’s game will follow and also be televised.

It is scintillating matchup. Nova Southeastern, ranked No. 11 in the USA Today coaches poll, is 14-1 overall and 6-0 in the Sunshine State Conference. Florida Southern, which is receiving votes in the top 25 poll, is also 14-1 overall and 5-1 in conference.

“Obviously, it is a great opportunity for our program and our institution to be a Division II program that gets to be on any of the ESPN networks,” Nova Southeastern coach LeAnn Freeland said. “Our players are excited for the opportunity. We hope to showcase two very good teams in our conference.”

Every basketball experience for Buie is exciting this season after what she went through last year. She entered the 2014-15 season coming off a spectacular sophomore year that helped the Sharks make their second straight Elite Eight appearance. Buie started in 32 of 33 games and led the team in scoring with a 15.1 average, and that team made the Final Four.

But before last season started, Buie suffered an ACL injury in practice.

“I was shocked I got injured. I never had an injury like that before,” Buie said. “It showed me a different side of the game, the coaching side. I am looking to go into coaching after I am done playing for however long I play. It really helped me be a better player.”

The Sharks went 27-6 last year and again made the Elite Eight. With Buie back, the Sharks are in position to duplicate or top what they have done the three previous seasons.

Right away, Buie showed she was back as good as ever. In the first regular season game, Buie scored 25 points, making 10 of 12 shots from the field, in a victory over North Alabama.

Freeland knew it was hard on Buie to sit and watch last season.

“We were expecting big things from her in her junior year,” Freeland said. “She was in phenomenal shape and was ready to go and unfortunately, she took a hit in practice.

“Every coach who sees a player go through an injury that Taylor experienced, our hopes and desire is to see them get back on the court and be the way they were before. She was such a dynamic player for us. To see her come back so strong and so quickly and get her confidence back was really exciting for our entire staff and teammates who supported her all last season.”

In her five years at Nova Southeastern, Freeland is thankful she has had many players with the same dedication and desire as Buie.

She points to current graduate assistant Danielle Robinson, who played four years for the Sharks, and current seniors Alexis Murphy and Molly Blomer, for having a phenomenal impact on the program.

“It is always about the players,” Freeland said. “We have been very fortunate to recruit very talented players who bought into our vision from day one. Our first recruit is now our graduate assistant, Danielle Robinson.

“They have improved every year and really challenged themselves to get better and that makes our entire team better.”

Buie has certainly enjoyed being part of this program.

“It has been great, going to the tournament every year that I have been here has been an unbelievable experience,” Buie said. “Some people only get to go once and I have been every year I have been here.

“It has been a good experience so far and more good experiences to come.”

Arkansas-Fort Smith women’s basketball team takes on undefeated Lubbock Christian

Everything about Arkansas-Fort Smith home game on Saturday has a potential of causing the women’s basketball team to look past Thursday’s home game against Oklahoma Panhandle State.

On Saturday at 6 p.m. ET at Stubblefield Center, Fort Smith will take on No. 4 Lubbock Christian, which is 13-0 overall and 5-0 in the Heartland Conference. The game will be streamed on and televised on American Sports Network. The men’s game will follow on both and ASN.

“We hope our kids aren’t looking ahead to Saturday,” Fort Smith coach Louis Whorton said. “We don’t won’t our kids to stub their toes in that game.”

Fort Smith has done a good job so far this year of focusing on the task at hand. The Lions are 10-4 overall and 3-2 in the Heartland.

“We’ve played very well together,” said senior forward Jasmine Brainard, who is averaging 14.4 points in her second season at Fort Smith. “We know each other’s strengths, and we all play our roles. We need to continue to get better, especially with shooting and getting the ball to who needs it and doing everything we know we can do to be the best team we can.”

The Lions are coming off a season which saw them go 21-9 and advance to the South Central Regional semifinals.

“I think everybody is pretty excited,” Brainard said. “LC (Lubbock Christian) has beat us twice so everybody is hungry to show them they can’t beat us anymore. We are ready to get these wins.”

Whorton likes what Brainard has brought to the program.

“She came in and adjusted extremely quick,” Whorton said. “She is a very mature young lady. She is our leading scorer. She is an outstanding three-point shooter and she made herself into a tremendous athlete. She is a workout fanatic. She is well conditioned and plays a lot bigger than she is.”

Against Lubbock Christian, Brainard and all the Lions will have to play bigger than their actual size. Whorton said the game will be a great contrast in different playing styles from the two teams.

“We like to press and run and play man and pressure defense and they like to use their height and set in a zone,” Whorton said. “It will be an interesting game for people to watch.”

Whorton wants his team to take advantage of these two home games. Last week they had games in San Antonio and Laredo, Texas. Brainard said they spent 15 hours on the bus.

“You always feel good about home games in our league because our league is so spread out,” Whorton said. “We have some long road trips and it is always tough on the road teams. So you cherish home games. If you are going to compete for your conference championship you have to win your home games.”