WINGATE, N.C. --- Wingate University overcame an eight-point deficit in the final seven minutes to defeat Tusculum University 53-47 in the quarterfinal round of the Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Championship tournament Wednesday night at Cuddy Arena.
Jo Snow scored all of her team-high 16 points in the second half, including a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:15 left as the second-seeded Bulldogs (21-7) advance to face Lincoln Memorial in the SAC semifinals on Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina. Teliyah Jeter flirted with a triple-double for the second straight game against Tusculum, finishing with nine points, eight rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Mia Long scored 17 of her game-high 22 points in the second half and had a team-high eight rebounds for the Pioneers (16-9), who were seeded seventh in the tournament field. Tusculum was ranked ninth in the latest NCAA Division II Southeast Region rankings which were released Wednesday afternoon, while Wingate was ranked fourth in the region. All three meetings between the Pioneers and Bulldogs this season were tied with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Wingate won all three.
Tusculum, which shot 28.1 percent from the field in a 51-47 overtime loss to Wingate in the regular-season finale on Saturday, hit just 29.8 percent (17-for-57) on Wednesday, including 7-for-26 from three-point range. Wingate was not much better from the floor, connecting on 16-of-52 shot attempts (30.8 percent), but the Bulldogs were 16-for-17 from the foul line in the game while the Pioneers were 6-for-7 at the stripe.
Snow, who hit four three-pointers in the game, capped an 11-0 run by hitting a three with 2:00 left to give Wingate a 44-41 lead. Callie Patterson responded with a tying three for Tusculum with 1:35 remaining, but Snow drilled another three with 1:15 left to give the Bulldogs the lead for good at 47-44 and the Bulldogs went 4-for-4 from the line in the final minute to put away the win.
Both teams got off to a slow start, with Tusculum missing its first three field-goal attempts and Wingate starting 0-for-5 from the floor. Tusculum scored five straight points on a layup by Long and a three-pointer by Lovely Locklear to take a 5-2 lead, but back-to-back buckets from Courtney Robinson put the Bulldogs back ahead 6-5 with 4:50 to go in the first quarter.
Two free throws by Jeter gave Wingate an 8-7 lead with 4:00 left in the period, but the Bulldogs would go scoreless for nearly the entire remainder of the quarter. Tusculum ran off five points in a row to go up 12-8 following two free throws by Yolizma Cupidan with 21 seconds left in the quarter, but the Bulldogs' Morgan Simmons hit a three-pointer with five seconds left to cut the Tusculum lead to 12-11 after the first period.
Tusculum shot 4-for-16 (25 percent) from the field in the first quarter, while Wingate was 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) and turned the ball over five times. Cupidan led Tusculum with four points and three rebounds in the quarter, while Robinson had four points and three boards for the Bulldogs.
In the second quarter, Tusculum missed seven of its first eight shots from the field and was outscored 8-2 by Wingate over the first 5 1/2 minutes of the period. The Bulldogs were just 2-for-13 to open the quarter, but went 4-for-5 at the line to go on top 19-14 after a Danasia Witherspoon bucket with 5:05 left in the half. Tusculum was able to trim the deficit to 21-19 at halftime as Long hit a three-pointer with 2:53 left and Cupidan connected on a jumper with eight seconds remaining.
Cupidan had six points and Long five for the Pioneers in the first half, as Tusculum shot 25 percent (7-for-28) as a team and just 2-for-14 from three-point range. Wingate, which shot worse from the field at 20.7 percent (5-for-19) and turned the ball over nine times. Jeter and Witherspoon shared the team lead with five points apiece for the Bulldogs, with Robinson leading with four rebounds.
Long sparked the Tusculum offense in the third quarter, scoring 10 straight points for the Pioneers as Tusculum went ahead 31-26 with 4:29 left in the third quarter. However, the Pioneers went into a drought from the field as they were held without a field goal for the final 5:03 of the period and Wingate scored five straight to tie the game at 31-31 heading to the fourth.
Long continued her scoring surge to open the fourth quarter, connecting on a jumper and drilling a three-pointer before capping a personal 7-0 run that gave the Pioneers a 38-31 lead with 7:24 to go. A Cupidan three-pointer gave Tusculum a 41-33 advantage with 6:56 left. However, the Bulldogs ran off eight straight points to tie the game at 41-41 on a basket by Jeter with 3:17 remaining.
Following Snow's second go-ahead three-pointer, Tusculum missed a potential tying three-pointer with 36 seconds left and Wingate's Jordan Quick made two foul shots with 24.0 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 49-44 lead. Patterson answered with a three-pointer with 11.4 seconds to go to bring Tusculum within 49-47, but Caroline Averette hit two foul shots with 10.1 remaining and Robinson added two more with 0.3 seconds left to send Wingate to the SAC semifinals.
Cupidan finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists while playing all 40 minutes for the Pioneers. For Wingate, Averette finished with six points and five rebounds and Robinson added six points, seven rebounds and a game-high five assists in 32 minutes off the bench.
Tusculum forced Wingate into 17 turnovers which they converted into 15 points, but the Bulldogs had a 45-31 rebounding advantage over the Pioneers. The game featured seven ties and 10 lead changes, with both teams holding their largest leads in the fourth quarter.