February 10, 2014

King's hot start downs Crusaders

BRISTOL, Tenn. – The King University women's basketball team grabbed the lead just over a minute into the game and never looked back as the Tornado defeated North Greenville 75-62 in a Conference Carolinas matchup that moved King into a tie for fourth place in the league standings.

The Tornado (14-7, 8-5 Conference Carolinas) had one of their better offensive outputs of the season, shooting 45.0 percent from the floor to notch their sixth-highest point total this year. Kelly Jackson, who collected six rebounds and matched her career high with 16 points to lead all scorers, was one of three Tornado to score in double figures.  Sara Mitchell set a new career high with 13 points off the bench, and Stephanie Brantley scored ten. Bonnie Durrett finished with just eight points but surpassed ten rebounds for the twelfth time this season, collecting 13 boards. Alley Sprouse, the second-most prolific shot-blocker in the conference, swatted away three Crusader attempts to go along with her nine points and six rebounds.

The Tornado came out firing on all cylinders, jumping out to a 20-5 lead at the 13:41 mark of the first half. King opened the game by making eight of their first 11 field goal attempts, shooting at a 72.7 percent clip in the early going.

The defense, which is ranked ninth nationally by allowing opponents to connect on 34.6 percent of their field goal attempts, was stingy after being torched for 78 points by the University of Mount Olive on Saturday, allowing North Greenville (7-14, 3-10 Conference Carolinas) to make just one of its first 15 shots. The Crusaders were unable to make their second shot from the field until the 11:27 mark of the first half.

King's fortunes reversed after its hot start, however. After beginning the game at a torrid pace, the Tornado hit a lengthy dry spell by missing 11 of their next 12 shots and allowing the Crusaders to embark on an 11-2 run to pull within six points. But consecutive field goals by Sprouse, Tia Keitt, and Reazyn DeMoss stretched the lead back to 13 before Sara Mitchell capped the 12-2 Tornado run with a three-point basket with 1:29 to play in the half.

The game proceeded along a similar storyline in the second half. King led by 22 points with 12:50 remaining, but a 14-2 Crusader run over the next four minutes cut the lead to just ten points. A Jackson three-pointer stopped the bleeding, then Stephanie Brantley's three-point play stretched the lead back to 14 following a Crusader layup. Sara Mitchell added another three-point field goal, then Durrett provided the dagger with a layup that made the lead 66-46 with 4:40 to play.

King's suffocating defense allowed North Greenville to shoot just 28.8 percent from the field, making 23 of 80 field goal attempts. Krisceda Cotton led the Crusaders with 14 points, followed closely by Timisty Nelson with 12. Alisha Hope had 10 rebounds and finished a point shy of a double-double.

King will again play on short rest this week, suiting up for the third time in five nights against conference foe Converse College on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.