Lady 'Canes fall to top team in D-II

GREENWOOD, S.C. – The Georgia Southwestern women's basketball team played the top-ranked team in NCAA Division II - Lander University - tough, but ultimately fell to the Lady Bearcats, 80-68, Saturday afternoon at Finis Horne Arena.

Lander (21-0, 11-0 Peach Belt) extended its longest winning streak in school history to 21 games. The Lady Hurricanes fell to 9-9, 3-6. 

Terra Branch led GSW with 15 points while Nadirah Gardner added 13 points and four assists. Gardner and Cierra Duhart led the Lady Hurricanes with six rebounds apiece.

Shannon McKever scored 24 points to lead LU. McKever made 11 of 14 shots from the floor and also pulled down a game-high nine rebounds in front of a near capacity Homecoming crowd. Tasheba Butler added 19 points on eight of 11 shooting and had seven boards.

McKever and Butler were a combined 19-for-25 from the floor with 43 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Ciara Lyons added a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists while grabbing eight rebounds.

The Lady Bearcats shot particularly well from the floor, making 51 percent of their shots (31 of 61). Lander made 15 of 23 free throws (65 percent) and three of 14 from 3-point range (21 percent).

GSW made 26 of 65 shots from the floor (40 percent), 12 of 21 free throws (57 percent), and four of 13 from behind the arc (31 percent).

Lander had a 40-36 edge on the boards and forced 18 Lady Hurricane turnovers while committing 16 turnovers.

GSW gave the top-ranked team their best shot. The Lady Hurricanes tied the game at 16-all at the halfway point of the first half when Gardner put back an air ball.

Lander responded with an 8-2 run, building a 26-18 lead with 7:35 to go in the half. Brittni Johnson started the run with a 3-pointer, McKever scored twice inside and had a free throw, then McKever blocked a shot into the hands of Jasmine Judge, who threw an outlet pass to Lyons for a layup.

The Lady Bearcats' first double-digit lead came with three minutes left when Mukia Myrick hit two free throws, making it 31-21.

GSW pulled within 31-25 when Jessica Bivins got a steal and made a pull-up jumper. Butler's basket in the final minute gave Lander a 33-25 halftime lead.

The Lady Bearcats opened up a double-figure lead when McKever converted an old-fashioned three-point play, increasing their advantage to 41-30 with 17:50 left. Lander twice led by 14, including 48-34 on a basket by Lyons at the 14-minute mark.

But the Lady Bearcats weren't able to put GSW away yet. Duhart's three-point play pulled the Lady Hurricanes within 10, 49-39, with 11:22 left.

Samantha Smith's basket pulled GSW within single figures, 54-45, at the nine minute mark. The Lady Hurricanes cut it to nine twice more before Lander finally began to pull away.

McKever's basket gave the Lady Bearcats a 68-52 lead with 5:10 to go and Lyons scored a driving layup off an outlet pass from McKever to give Lander its largest lead of the game at 74-57 with 3:14 to go.

The Lady Bearcats matched that 17-point lead twice more on Butler's jumper at 2:49 and Myrick's two free throws, making it 80-63 with 1:48 left.

GSW wraps up its four-game road trip on Wednesday by facing the No. 2 team in the national polls, Clayton State, at 5:30 p.m.

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