FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - Anja Fuchs-Robetin scored 25 points and hauled in 14 rebounds as Florida Southern College women's basketball held off fourth-seeded Nova Southeastern, 80-77, to advance to the Sunshine State Conference Tournament title game for the second-straight year. The No. 17 Moccasins (27-3), who entered the game as the No. 1 seed in the tournament, led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter but had to overcome a late charge by the Sharks (18-11) to earn a spot in Sunday's championship game.
Julia Jenike (18) and Camille Giardina (16) also scored in double figures and the Mocs shot 48.3 percent (28-of-58) from the floor in the victory. Florida Southern will face No. 3 seed Eckerd at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday at NSU's Rick Case Arena. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- 1st Quarter | Florida Southern faced easily its toughest test of the season on Saturday as Nova Southeastern used its home venue to its advantage as it grabbed a 5-0 lead in the opening two minutes and stayed in front until late in the quarter, when Mercedez Claybrone hit a layup with 2:52 on the clock to give Southern its first lead of the game (16-15). A jumper from Fuchs-Robetin with just under two minutes left made it 20-17 in favor of the Mocs, but the Sharks hit a three on their next possession to tie and closed out the quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 24-22 lead at the end of the first.
- 2nd Quarter | The Moccasins were able to grab momentum early in the second quarter as they opened the period in a 6-0 run to take a 28-24 edge on a pair of Fuchs-Robetin free throws at the 8:10 mark. The lead would change hands several times before the half and it looked as if NSU would head to the locker room with a 37-36 lead, but Bekki Kalaydjiev hit a jumper at the buzzer to put the Mocs back on top (38-37) at the break.
- 3rd Quarter | Florida Southern was able to take control of the game at the onset of the third as it held Nova Southeastern without a point for the first four minutes of the quarter as it jumped out to its largest lead of the day (48-37) with 6:55 to play. The Sharks finally scored with 5:58 on the clock to slice the deficit back to single digits, but Southern was able to hold steady and led by 10 (64-54) heading into the fourth.
- 4th Quarter | Despite looking as if it had the game in hand the Mocs would have to survive one last charge by the Sharks, who outscored Florida Southern 14-4 over the first six and a half minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the contest (68-68) with 3:46 to play. Despite nearly giving up the lead, the Mocs never fell behind as Julia Jenike hit a key three-pointer with just 2:24 to go and the Moccasin defense clamped down in the final moments to slow the NSU offense. Giardina hit a pair of free throws with three seconds left to give the Mocs an 80-77 advantage after the Sharks had drawn within one on Alison Hughes' three in the final 10 seconds, and the Southern defense forced a turnover on the final play of the game to earn the win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 49-25 all-time in the SSC Tournament, including a 2-1 mark when facing the Sharks in the conference tournament. The Mocs are now 22-19 all-time against Nova Southeastern, with a 10-10 record in Ft. Lauderdale.
- The win gives Florida Southern the chance to win the SSC's regular-season and tournament titles in back-to-back seasons for the ninth time and the first since 1994-95 and 1995-96. A victory on Sunday would give Florida Southern its 12th SSC Tournament title.
- Florida Southern and Eckerd last met in the SSC Tournament in 2015, when the Tritons earned a 73-59 win in the opening round. Despite being two of the charter members of the Sunshine State Conference, the Mocs and Tritons have never met in an SSC Tournament final.
- Florida Southern will face Eckerd at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday for the SSC Tournament championship. The winner receives the SSC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Mocs are currently in line to host the NCAA South Regional (March 15-18) in Lakeland after being ranked No. 1 in the latest South Region rankings. No. 2 Union lost in the Gulf South Conference Tournament semifinal on Saturday, all but assuring Florida Southern of hosting the regional for the first time since 1995.