Top-Seeded Trojans Hold off No. Six Seed Tusculum for SAC Tournament TitleMarch 10, 2013
GREENVILLE, S.C. – Top-seeded Anderson held off No. 6 seeded Tusculum, 55-52, to capture the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon at Timmons Arena.
Anderson (23-8), the SAC regular-season champions, captured its first SAC Tournament title since joining the conference for the 2010-11 season by winning eight of its last nine games en route to earning the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Southeast Regional.
Sixth-seeded Tusculum (16-13) was battling for its third SAC Tournament crown in four years after claiming the title in both 2010 and 2011. The Pioneers, who were unranked in the most recent NCAA Southeast Region rankings, will wait until the NCAA Selection Show at 10 p.m. Sunday night to learn their fate for the remainder of the postseason.
Anderson opened the game with a 4-0 run, and senior guard Alissa Diaz’s traditional 3-point play 17:25 gave the Trojans a 7-2 lead, but Tusculum guard Jama Hammontree countered by scoring five unanswered points for the Pioneers and knotting the score for the first time on the afternoon.
Pioneer guard Kendall Baxter’s deep 3-pointer from the right wing gave Tusculum its first lead of the contest, at the 17:07 mark, but Anderson responded with four quick points to regain a brief 13-12 edge with less than 13 minutes on the clock. Ashley Thurman’s basket regained the lead for Tusculum and Nequoiah Anderson’s layup boosted the Pioneers edge to 16-13 with 8:19 on the clock.
Anderson sophomore Jaclyn Moore’s jumper from the left elbow snapped a 4 ½ minute scoring drought for the Trojans and pulled AU within one, at 16-15, and Simpson’s back- to-back baskets, first on a steal and layup, then on a jumper just inside the arc from the left wing gave Anderson a 19-16 lead with 4:16 remaining in the first half.
Guard Kimberly Major sank a pair of free throws to push AU’s edge to five with 1:20 on the clock and Simpson’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave the Trojans their largest lead of the half, at 24-16. The Trojans closed the half with 11 unanswered points as Tusculum was unable to find the bottom of the basket in the final 8:19 of the opening half.
But Tusculum’s Thurman snapped the drought with a pair of free throws to open the second-half scoring with 18:27 on the clock to trim AU’s advantage to six, however the Trojans answered with seven unanswered points to open a double-digit, 31-18, lead with 16:21 left.
The Pioneers’ Kendal Baxter and Breaira Barksdale responded with back-to-back long-range 3-pointers to pull Tusculum back within 31-24 and TC pulled within five on a Baxter layup with more than 12 minutes left in the title matchup, and again on a pair of free throws from Thurman, but AU regained 10-point lead on Diaz’s put back of a Simpson miss with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Tusculum refused to go away quietly, erupting on a 13-3 run to even the score at 44 apiece on Baxter’s driving layup with 2:43 remaining. Five consecutive free throws by the Trojans, who connected on 11-of-12 from the line in the final 2:18, gave AU a 49-44 lead.
Barksdale’s layup with 3.2 seconds remaining pulled Tusculum within 53-49, but Woods drained another pair of free throws with 2.4 ticks on the clock and Nequoiah Anderson’s shot from midcourt at the buzzer set the final score.
Diaz led all scorers with 15 points, with Shannon and Simpson each adding 11 points apiece. Shannon shared game-high rebounding honors with nine boards, narrowly missing her sixth double-double of the season. Woods was 10-of-10 from the line and handed out a team-best three assists.