|Florida Southern Moccasins (27-5) vs.
#1 Lubbock Christian Lady Chaparrals (32-0)
NCAA Elite Eight National Quarterfinal #1
|Date & Time||Tuesday, March 22, 1 p.m. Eastern / 12 p.m. Central
|Location||Sanford Pentagon (3,100) | Sioux Falls, South Dakota
|Video||www.NCAA.com (Matt Menzel)
|@FSC_Athletics | @D2SSC | @NCAADII
|Hash Tags||#FSCMocs | #D2WBB | #EliteEight
|Game Notes||Florida Southern | Lubbock Christian|
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Florida Southern will look to win its fourth consecutive game here on Tuesday afternoon as the Moccasins face top-ranked and undefeated Lubbock Christian in the first of four national quarterfinal games at the 2016 NCAA Division II Elite Eight at the Sanford Pentagon.
The Mocs, who come into Tuesday's Elite Eight match-up sporting a 27-5 overall record, are making its second-ever appearance in the Elite Eight and its first in 21 years as FSC last played in the Elite Eight in 1995 in Fargo, N.D.
"It means a lot to the program because the program had been down for a couple years and we haven't been here (the Elite Eight) in 21 years," Moccasin second-year head coach Betsy Harris said. "So for us to be able to do this and to follow what the guys did last year it is big for our girls on this year's team and of course for future players, plus its big for our school and our community."
It is the second consecutive season that Florida Southern has sent a basketball team to the Elite Eight as the Moccasin men's basketball program played in the 2015 Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind., and claimed the school's second-ever national title in men's basketball and 28th overall in school title with its 77-62 win over Indiana (Pa.) in the championship game. The Moccasin men finished last season with a school record 36 wins and posted a 36-1 record.
This season, the Moccasin women, who enter the Elite Eight having won nine of its last 10 games with its only loss coming to Florida Tech (71-62) in the semifinals of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament semifinals, are one win shy of tying for the most wins in school history as the Elite Eight team in 1995 coached by FSC Hall of Famer Norm Benn won 28 games and finished with a 28-4 record.
FSC advanced to this year's Women's Elite Eight after winning three games last weekend at the South Regional Tournament hosted by Union University in Jackson, Tenn. After opening with a 61-50 win over 5th-seeded Kentucky State, the Mocs rallied to from an 11-point deficit after scoring a season high 32 fourth quarter points in its 69-59 win over 8th-seeded Tampa in the semifinals and then won its second-ever regional title with a 64-56 win in the championship game over 2nd-seeded and 11th-ranked Benedict.
"It says about them. All of this started back in preseason with all the hard workouts we did. I kept telling them to stick with it, it's all going to pay off and I'm glad they did because it has paid off," said Harris, when asked about winning 27 games this year after winning just 13 the previous season. "It says a lot about perservance, hard work and the menta; toughness that they've had to build, because that's what got them here."
Meanwhile, Lubbock Christian comes into its first-ever Elite Eight in its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance sporting a perfect 32-0 record and earned a spot in the Elite Eight by posting a 92-72 win in the South Central Regional final against Angelo State. The Lady Chaps, who are a member of the Heartland Conference, are the lone remaining undefeated team in Division II women's basketball and one of three No. 1 seeds from their respective regional to advance to Sioux Falls and the Elite Eight.
The Mocs are making its 11th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season and have posted a 10-10 record in those appearances, including being 3-0 this season. The last time FSC advanced to the Elite Eight was in 1995 as they fell 79-77 to Missouri Western in the national quarterfinals. FSC is the fifth consecutive SSC team to play in the Elite Eight as Nova Southeastern played in the previous three Elite Eights, while Rollins advanced to the Elite Eight in 2012.
It will the first-ever meeting between the two schools and the first time FSC has faced a current member of the Heartland Conference. In addition, the Mocs are 3-4 all-time against the teams in this year's Elite Eight as they are 2-3 against Bentley, 1-0 against Grand Valley State and 0-1 against Francis Marion, while they have never faced Alaska-Anchorage, Lubbock Christian, Pittsburg State or Virginia Union.
FSC comes into play Tuesday having posted a perfect 13-0 record this season against non-SSC foes as all five of FSC's losses have come against Florida Tech (3 times), Barry (once) and Nova Southeastern (once). In addition, FSC has been strong away from home this season as they enter Tuesday's action sporting a 12-4 record away from home, including a 3-1 mark on neutral courts.
"I think we've been prepared this season because of our schedule. We're used to playing in different atmospheres, different gyms. I don't think (playing on the road) it bothers them at all," Harris said about her team's success on the road. "I think we will be nervous and jittery at the beginning because they've never been in a situation like this, but hopefully once they relax and calm down, we'll be able to play ball."
Blassage leads the Mocs in both scoring (12.6 ppg) and assists (3.3 apg) and is also averaging 1.0 steals per game and is shooting 48 percent from the field, 45 percent from the 3-point line and 89 percent from the free throw line, which is second in the SSC and 11th nationally. She has scored in double figures in 21 games, including 16 times in her last 23 games and earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the South Regional Tournament after averaging 17.0 points per game and shooting 50 percent from both the field and 3-point line.
Harris, who was named a First-Team All-SSC selection, is averaging 12.2 points per game and lead the team in rebounding (5.7 rpg) and has blocked a team-best 33 shots (1.1 bpg). She is shooting 49 percent from the field and has reached double figures in 18 of her last 27 games.
In addition to Harris and Blassage, three other Mocs are averaging between 8.5 to 9.0 points per game. Senior guard Shaquita Snow (Racine, Wis.) is averaging 8.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game and is third in the SSC in assist/turnover ratio (1.8) and was named to the All-Tournament Team at the South Regional Tournament after averaging 15.3 points per game and scored a career high 23 points in the South Regional semifinal game against Tampa, while freshman guard Camille Giardina (Sarasota, Fla.), who was named the SSC Freshman of the Year, is averaging 8.7 points per game and is shooting 40 percent from the field, 36 percent from the 3-point line and has reached double figures in 15 games and senior guard Sydni Payne (Conyers, Ga.) is averaging 8.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game and is sixth in the SSC in steals (1.6) and is shooting 39 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free throw line.
As a team, the Mocs come into the Elite Eight as they are second in the SSC in scoring as they are averaging 71.2 points per game and has scored 70 or more points in 16 of 32 games. In addition, FSC is third in the SSC in field goal percentage (43.0 percent), second in 3-point field goal percentage (38.0 percent) and is second in free throw percentage (76.2 percent). The Mocs are 44th nationally in field goal shooting, ninth in 3-point shooting and 21st in free throw shooting and are outscoring its foes by +8.8 margin and is 25th nationally in turnover margin (+3.8 margin).
Defensively, the Mocs are allowing its foes to score 62.5 points per game and have held 28 of its last 30 opponents under 75 points, including holding its last 11 foes to 65 points or less.
The Mocs defense will be challenged by a Lady Chaparrals team that leads Division II in numerous categories, including field goal percentage (51.8 percent), scoring margin (+29.7) and is fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (39.8 percent) and is sixth in scoring (82.9 points per game). LCU has defeated all but two of its opponents this season by 20 or more points as they defeated Fort Lewis, 82-76 in overtime on Nov. 21 and then defeated Rogers State (68-59) on Jan. 14.
"They (Lubbock Christian) lead the country in a lot of offensive categories, good categories. They are tall, basically the whole team can shoot it and they'll be difficult to defend," said Harris, who shared SSC Coach of the Year honors with Nova Southeastern's LeeAnn Freeland. "But I think that if we come out and play defense the way we did in the region tournament, I think we'll be fine. We just have to hit shots."
In FSC's three wins in the South Regional Tournament, the Mocs allowed their three opponents to score 55 points per game and hold their foes to 39 percent shooting from the field, 17 percent from the 3-point line and forced 16.7 turnovers per game.
Leading the way for the Lady Chaps is senior All-American guard Nicole Hampton. Hampton, who was named the D2CCA South Central Regional Player of the Year, is averaging 14.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game and has a Division II leading 3.6 assist/turnover ratio on the year. Hampton is shooting 59 percent from the field, 41 percent from the 3-point line and 91 percent from the free throw line, which is fifth-best in Division II.
In addition to Hampton, three other Lady Chaps are averaging in double figures as sophomore forward Tess Bruffey is averaging 13.7 points per game and is shooting 56 percent from the field and 46 percent from the 3-point line, while redshirt senior guard Kelsey Hoppel is averaging 12.8 points per game and is shooting 49 percent from the field and 44 percent from the 3-point line and senior guard Haley Fowler is averaging 10.0 points per game and is shooting 61 percent from the floor and 36 percent from the 3-point line.
"Usually when we play, we're the smallest team out there. We have to try and keep them off the boards," Harris added. "We definitely have to put a hand up in their face on their shots. I would rather them put the ball on the floor, then shoot off and penetrate and kick out to their 3-point shooters. We have to run our offense and we have to stay focused and keep fighting."
Harris said her team needs to play like the Mocs men's team played last season during their national championship campaign.
"When you're in a tournament like this, you can't relax at any time and that's what our guys were so good at last year. They never relaxed and played high intensity for 40 minutes, which is something we have to do tomorrow," the Mocs coach said.
While the Mocs haven't advanced to this stage of the postseason as a team in 21 years, the Moccasin players can rely on the experience of their coach as she had plenty of NCAA Tournament experience as a player as she was a member of the University of Alabama's 1994 Final Four team, that advanced to the Final Four as a No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region. The Crimson Tide fell 69-66 to Louisiana Tech in the national semifinals and Harris was named to the All-Tournament, along with earning Midwest Region Most Outstanding Player honors.
"It means a lot, it's pretty cool to have played in a Final Four as a player and now coach a team in the Elite Eight," Harris said. "Just to be able to take these kids in a position like this, I want them to experience everything I've experienced, but even more. It means more to me, I just don't know how these kids feel, even though it is pretty cool to have played in a Final Four and now coach a team in the Elite Eight and hopefully we can get further."
In addition to the FSC-Lubbock Christian game on Tuesday, the other national quarterfinal match-ups are East Regional champion Bentley (28-5) meeting Atlantic Regional champion Virginia Union (27-2) at 3:30 p.m. Eastern with that winner facing the FSC-LCU winner in one of Wednesday's national semifinals at 7 p.m. Eastern.
The other side of the bracket has West Regional champion Alaska-Anchorage (36-2) facing Southeast Regional champion Francis Marion (24-8) at 7 p.m. Eastern and Central Regional champion Pittsburg State (29-5) meeting Midwest Regional champion Grand Valley State (25-9) at 9:30 p.m. Eastern. The two winners of those games will meet in Wednesday's second national semifinal at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.
This year's Division II National Championship will be held in conjunction with the Division I Women's Final Four in Indianapolis on Monday, April 4 at 3 p.m. Eastern in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. For the first time ever, the NCAA will conduct its women's basketball championships in all three divisions in Indianapolis.