March 2, 2012
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -The No. 7 seeded Western Carolina women's basketball (14-16) defeated No. 10 seed Georgia Southern (8-22) 61-56, in overtime, in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament Friday at Kimmel Arena.
The Catamounts advance to the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday facing No. 2 seed Appalachian State.
Youth and experience led the way for Western Carolina with senior guard Kaila'Shea Menendez and freshman guard Makensey Campbellscoring two-thirds of the Catamounts' points in the game. Menendez led all scorers with 21 points and Campbell poured in a career-high 20. Campbell also drained a career-high five three pointers in the contest.
"I felt like we were a little rushed early. We didn't have our composure, committing 15 turnovers," said Western Carolina head coach Karen Middleton. "We just had to take a deep breath, so that's what we talked about in the locker room; be composed and play within ourselves."
Western Carolina took a short-lived lead, late in the second half, when Diamond Hunnicutthit a pair of free throws 44-43 with 1:07 left. Campbell hit one of two free throws to give WCU a 45-43 lead. This set up Georgia Southern's MiMi Dubose's field goal with 14 seconds left to tie the game at 45.
Campbell's jumper, to start the overtime, gave the Catamounts a 47-45 lead and the Catamounts never trailed in the extra period. Menendez followed with a three-pointer, after Campbell's jumper to give Western Carolina a five-point advantage.
Georgia Southern pulled within two, 56-54, on a free throw by Anna Claira Knight. Western Carolina answered with Ali Lane, who ended the game with 11 points, hitting a pair of free throws of her own to push the lead back to four.
In the final minute of the game, Western Carolina 5-of-6 from the free throw line to put the game away.
Trailing by five points, 25-20, at the half, Western Carolina was in a battle in the second half. Georgia Southern led by as much as nine points, 31-22, early in the second half. Western Carolina hung in the game and bided its time, slowly chipping away at the Eagles' lead. Campbell's three pointer, at 7:11 left in the second half, cut the GSU lead to 40-37, and gave the Catamounts a real boost.
In the final two minutes of the second half, Western Carolina tied the game up, before taking the lead off the second free throw by Hunnicutt.
Western Carolina was 15-of-23 from the free throw line while Georgia Southern was just 6-of-9. The Catamounts were out-rebounded by Georgia Southern 35-31, but did have 23 defensive rebounds.
This was the second overtime game with Georgia Southern this year. The Eagles came out on top in the earlier meeting, 41-40, in Statesboro on December 17, 2011.