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Richmond, VA  – The Panthers of Virginia Union University (27-2) used their speed to hold off the Wheeling Jesuit University Cardinals (27-6) 75-66 in the second round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday evening.  The Panthers, now 12-0 on their home court, advance to face West Liberty University on Monday, March 14th at 7:00 p.m. in Barco-Stevens Hall.ncaa bkb logo

VUU's Kiana Johnson led the contest in scoring with 31 points.  Teammate Rahni Bell added 17 while Lady Walker notched 17.  Defensively, Walker led the Panthers with 17 total rebounds, 7 offensive and 10 defensive.

"I am excited about how things are working out with our depth," said VUU Head Coach AnnMarie Gilbert.  "We tweeted our starting lineup, switching Jamika Ruffin and Ashley Smith.  Ruffin is a little bigger; we thought she matched up better with #2 [Jaila Bryant] for Wheeling Jesuit. I'm thrilled that we can pick and switch things around to find better matchups."

Jaila Bryant led her Cardinals team, scoring 18 points.  Mariah Callen followed suite with 10 points of her own and Chenelle Moore recorded a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.

The Cardinals forced 14 steals and outscored the No. 1 Panthers 14-11 on turnovers.  Wheeling Jesuit also led in second chance points (21-18) and points in the paint (30-22).  The Panthers dominated the game in fast break points, outscoring WJU 20-4.

With the tip-off the Cardinals hit the board first with a deep three-pointer by Mariah Callen.  Back-to-back threes by Rahni Bell brought the Panthers an early 6-5 lead.  Although the Cardinals wouldn't let the Panthers run too far ahead, play became physical on the court.  Panthers' Jamika Ruffin took the free throw line, going 2-for-2 just before Cardinal Callen went 1-for-2.  At the end of the first quarter, Virginia Union led Wheeling Jesuit 19-15.

On a missed Panthers' field goal in the second quarter, VUU stole Wheeling Jesuit's rebound and quickly passed the ball to Bell for her third three-pointer of the contest.  The Cardinals continued to work the court, but Kiana Johnson started her rhythm with a 7-point streak.  With 1:42 on the clock, Callen drained an easy three which was answered by Rhani Bell and her own three-pointer to seal the first half.

WJU's Taylor Lubinsky opened the third at the free-throw line to make both attempts before Virginia Union went on a 9-0 run.  At 6:31, Chenelle Moore broke the streak with a quick layup drive.  At the closing of the quarter, the Panthers marked their largest margin of the night after Lady Walker hit the board with a three throw.  The Cardinals cut their 14-point deficit slightly with the help of 3 points by Kylie Frizell.

The final stanza opened at 60-50 when Bryant of Wheeling Jesuit hit the jump shot.  The motion of the game went back-and-forth as the Cardinals worked on the scoreboard margin.  The Lady Panthers continued their high intensity until the final horn and sealed the deal 75-66.

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