JACKSON, Tenn. – The Benedict College women's basketball team jumped out to an early lead and held on for a 69-57 victory over Nova Southeastern University on Saturday and advanced to the championship game of the NCAA Division II South Region tournament held on the campus of Union University.
The Lady Tigers, the second seed in the region tournament, improved to 29-2 and will play fourth-seed Florida Southern on Monday night at 8 p.m. Eastern. Florida Southern defeated eighth-seed Tampa 69-59 in the other semifinal on Saturday. The winner of Monday's game will advance to the NCAA Elite Eight Tournament, with the first two games in Sioux Falls, S.D. The DII championship game will be on April 4 in Indianapolis as part of the Final Four weekend.
Sixth-seed Nova Southeastern, the three-time defending South Region champions, ended their season at 24-7.
The Lady Tigers came out aggressive from the opening tip and had an 11-point lead after just the first four minutes of play. A 3-pointer by Dorothy Brown just before the end of the quarter gave Benedict a 23-12 lead.
The Lady Tigers built as much as a 15-point lead in the second quarter, 32-17, on a 3-pointer by KaDeeja Vaughn, and took a 39-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"We knew coming in that you've got to go through Nova Southeastern," Benedict head coach James Rice said. "We got up a little bit, but I think we got up defensively. We were able to make some shots early in the game, some tough shots, and I thought that was the key."
Dorothy Brown scored 10 of her 14 points in the first half, connecting on a pair of 3-pointers. Terri Jacobs, who had made just seven 3-pointers all season, connected on two from long range in the first half.
"I thought Benedict played a fantastic game. Especially the first half. That's the best half of basketball we've seen all season," said Nova Southeastern head coach LeAnn Freeland. "They were super hot from three. Some of their players we weren't expecting to knock down big shots were knocking down some big shots. They definitely had momentum early and got us into a pretty significant deficit. They're tremendous team. I think it's the best SIAC team that I've seen since I've been coaching. They have a lot of energy and spirit and I thought they played well together."
Jacobs finished with 15 points, while Brown had 14. Vaughn had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"We've been asking Dorothy to shoot those threes all year long. It was just that Dorothy decided today that she wasn't going home," Rice said. "So she started taking those shots. She can shoot it, we know that. I don't think the other teams know that. I guess they backed up off her and gave her the shot."
Brown, one of two Benedict players on the roster who played against Nova Southeastern two years ago in the NCAA Tournament, said she was determined to win Saturday's game.
"I didn't want to go home. I wanted to win and I wanted to get Nova back from two years ago. I laid it all out on the court," Brown said.