ANDERSON, S.C. – As sharpshooter Emily Willoughby made her Senior Night a memorable one with 12 points and five rebounds, Anderson University women’s basketball earned a berth into next week’s Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament with an 80-57 victory over Tusculum Wednesday evening at the Abney Athletic Center.
Willoughby converted on two 3-pointers, finishing 5-of-11 from the floor as she was one of four Trojans to score in double figures, marking the third straight game AU has totaled four players in double digits. Making her final regular season appearance in the Black and Gold at the Abney Center, Willoughby surpassed former Trojan standout Regina McCoy for 11th-place on the program’s all-time 3-pointers made list with 109.
Willoughby drew even with junior Jasmine Franklin with 12 points on the night, as the tandem followed sophomore Katie Davis, who dropped in a team-high 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Davis also corralled eight rebounds, earning the start after coming off the bench in AU’s last six contests.
“I was really proud of our effort tonight,” Anderson head coach Jimmy Garrity said. “We beat a good Tusculum team that has won three-in-a-row and seven of its last nine games. I was really happy for Emily. For her to have one of her better all-around games on senior night was impressive. She has meant so much to our program over the last four years and I know her teammates wanted to send her out with a win.”
Junior Lesley Woods polished off the game with 11 points, including a 3-of-7 performance from behind the 3-point line. With her second 3-pointer of the evening, Woods passed Mikala Fogle-Wilson for seventh all-time on the 3-pointers made list with 142 for her career.
The Trojans out-rebounded the visitors, 47-44, headlined by guard Sierra Simpson’s 10 boards. The double digit rebounding total marks the second time this season Simpson has pulled down 10 or more boards, missing her season-high total of 11 by one. Offensively, the 5-foot-6 junior dished out six assists.
Despite the advantage on the boards, Tusculum’s Kristen McMillion posted a game-high 17 rebounds, with eight coming on the offensive side of the ball. As a team, the Pioneers grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, compared to AU’s 15. With the 17 offensive boards, TC recorded just eight second chance points for the contest.
Tusculum’s Nequoiah Anderson scored 20 points to lead all scorers, playing in all 40 minutes. The Tusculum guard was 5-of-16 from the field, but a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line, as the Pioneers were 16-for-18 (88.9 percent) from the line on the night.
With its success from the line, TC shot just 29.7 percent (19-for-64) from the floor, as Maelyn Cutshaw and Shynese Whitener followed Nequoiah Anderson with 12 points apiece. The Pioneers were just 3-of-20 (15 percent) from beyond the arc.
After Whitener scored the opening points of the contest, the Trojans answered with seven unanswered points, beginning with Woods’ first trey of the contest. AU maintained a single digit advantage until the 8:57 mark when Woods knocked in another 3-pointer, bringing the score to 20-10.
Once the Trojans took their largest lead of the first half at 30-15 when Woods connected on her final 3-pointer of the game, Tusculum began to inch back into the game, closing the gap to eight points when Nequoiah Anderson chipped in a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining in the opening period.
After Nequoiah Anderson recorded a steal on the next possession, Monroe fouled the guard during her attempt to try to beat the buzzer with the final shot. With 0.3 seconds left on the clock, Anderson connected on two free throws to send the game into halftime, 34-28.
Tusculum jumped out the gate to begin the second half, going on an 8-0 to begin the half, forcing the Trojan attack to regroup. Willoughby snapped the Pioneer scoring streak with a lay-in to even the score at 36-36.
The Willoughby lay-in drove the momentum back to the home side as the Trojans put together a 16-2 run following the senior’s bucket. In the span, Willoughby scored seven of the 16 points, including a 3-pointer from the wing for her final trey of the evening.
“Going into halftime, I was really concerned with keeping Tusculum off the offensive boards and off the free throw line,” Garrity said. “I addressed that in the locker room at the half and I thought we did a much better job in the second half.”
The Trojans continued to add to their lead, taking a 21-point advantage with 6:50 left when Davis scored a lay-in while being fouled by Whitener in the process, giving Davis the attempt for the traditional three-point play. Despite missing the free throw, the Pioneers scored just 13 points in the final six-and-a-half minutes as AU took its largest lead of the contest of 25 when sophomore Madison Floyd knocked in a corner 3-pointer to seal the much-needed conference win.
The Trojans depth shined throughout the evening, outscoring the Tusculum bench, 36-5. Following Franklin’s 12 bench points, fellow substitute, freshman Heather Jankowy, added eight points, while freshman Alexis Dillard notched seven points and nine rebounds.
With the win, the Trojans sit in a three-way tie for fifth-place in the league standings, joining Newberry and Carson-Newman with identical 11-10 SAC records. The lowest possible seed Anderson could receive in the conference tournament is the seventh position, sitting two games ahead of Coker, which is slotted in the final eighth spot.
With a possible home quarterfinal matchup in the SAC Tournament on the line, Anderson heads to Queens for its regular season finale on Saturday. Tip-off from the newly built Curry Arena is set for 6 p.m.