Early NCAA Tournament Exit For Benedict Women

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By BC SID

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BC SID) -- The top-seed Nova Southeastern University Sharks scored the final 14 points of the game to pull away from a close contest and escaped with a 75-61 victory over Benedict College in the first round of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament on Friday in the Don Taft University Center on the campus of NSU.

The final score doesn't reflect how close a game it was between the No. 1 seed and the No. 8 seed. There were 10 lead changes and the score was tied 12 times.

"Coming in, we knew it was going to be a real tough game. Nova is a very good offensive team. Their motion offense is really hard to guard. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but we were up for the challenge," Benedict head coach James Rice said.

Benedict ends its season at 20-10. The Sharks, 26-4, advance to the semifinals on Saturday, where they will play Albany State, which defeated Delta State in the final game on Friday.

The Lady Tigers took a 59-56 lead with 6:04 left to play on a jumper by Ashley Thompson. But from that point on, Benedict scored just two points - a jumper by Santera Grooms with 4:29 left to play to tie the game at 61. Benedict did not score in the final 4:29, missing four shots and turning the ball over four times. Nova Southeastern, on the other hand, made three-of-four field goal attempts and six-of-seven free throws in the same span.

Sophomore KaDeeja Vaughn led Benedict with 14 points and seven rebounds. Ashley Thompson, Britenique Harrison and Jasmine Stubbs all added nine points.

Taylor Buie led Nova Southeastern with 23 points. Richelle Carach added 15 points. Amanda Burakoski had a game-high 11 rebounds.

Benedict, which came into the game as the nation's leader in field goal defense, held the Sharks to 33 percent shooting in the first half. Nova Southeastern led 32-28 at the break.

The Sharks led 46-40 with 14:22 left to play, but Benedict rallied back to tie the game at 48 with 10:20 to play. The game stayed close the rest of the way until Nova Southeastern pulled away at the end.

"I thought it was quite a battle," said Nova Southeastern head coach Lee Ann Freeland. "Benedict came ready to play. Coach Rice did an amazing job scouting us and putting together a game plan. I thought their ladies fought to the very end. I give my ladies credit for weathering the storm."

It was a much different effort for the Lady Tigers than an early season 39-point loss to the Sharks on this same court.

"I told our team we had to stick to our defensive principles. The last time we played them, we didn't do that," Rice said.

"We thought we had a chance to take the lead, and that pumped us up," said senior Santera Grooms, whose layup and two free throws gave Benedict a 57-56 lead with 6:54 left to play.

Vaughn said this game will only serve as motivation for the players who will be returning for next season like herself. "This is going to motivate everyone to work hard in the offseason," Vaughn said.

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