Keitt has career day in loss to Limestone

Photo taken by Andy Olson

BRISTOL, Tenn. – A near-perfect game from Tia Keitt wasn't enough to propel the King University women's basketball team to an upset over Limestone College as the Tornado fell 81-75 to the Conference Carolinas leaders.

Keitt only missed once all afternoon on her way to a career-high 24 points, shattering her previous career best of 13 points set in 2011 vs. Mars Hill University. The junior guard made all eight of her field goal attempts, including a trio of three-point shots, and missed just one of her six attempts from the free-throw line. She also pulled down seven rebounds, just one short of her career high, and dished out four of the Tornado's 11 assists.

The Tornado (14-8, 8-6 Conference Carolinas) clung to a one-point lead at the half before a brief run gave King a 40-35 advantage just over two minutes into the second half. But Limestone (17-5, 12-2 Conference Carolinas) would embark on a 15-4 run over the next 4:46 to take their largest lead of the game at 50-44. Keitt, however, single-handedly pulled the Tornado even. She nailed a jumper in the lane and made a free throw to halve the advantage. Seconds later, she came up with a steal and made a fast-break layup through a foul, and her free throw evened the score at 50 with 12:24 to play.

Neither team would lead by more than one possession until Limestone took a 75-71 lead on a Celestra Warren three-point basket at the 3:32 mark of the second half. King only mustered one made field goal from that point, a Kelly Jackson jumper to pull the Tornado back within four points with 1:27 remaining. Limestone would stretch their lead back to six points at the free throw line and take the eventual 81-75 victory. The game, which neither team led by more than six points, featured 12 ties and 15 lead changes.

The Tornado, who came into the contest with the nation's sixth-ranked defense by allowing opponents to shoot just 34.3 percent from the field, were torched by a Saints offense that made 30 of their 69 field goal attempts on their way to shooting 43.5 percent for the game. It was the second-highest shooting percentage the Tornado have allowed this season behind the University of Mount Olive's 44.0 percent night two games ago.

Saturday's game stood in stark contrast to the two teams' meeting in Gaffney, S.C. on January 15. The Saints took another six-point decision in a low-scoring affair that saw the teams combine to miss 86 shots in Limestone's 55-49 victory.

King's deep bench was severely depleted due to three key reserves missing Saturday's game with injuries. As a result, the Tornado reserves were uncharacteristically outscored 31-15. Limestone scored 21 points off 21 King turnovers while the Tornado managed 12 points on 13 takeaways. The Saints held a 34-22 advantage on points in the paint, gashing the King defense for 24 points in the lane in the second half on a number of layups in traffic.

Alley Sprouse, the conference's second-leading shot blocker, tied her career high with six stuffs in the game, including five in the first half. Kelly Jackson joined Keitt in double figures with 14 points and had five rebounds, two blocked shots, and an assist. Stephanie Brantley had a career high with 10 rebounds to go along with her eight points.

Limestone was paced by Ayshia McNeil, who led all scorers with 25 points. Celestra Warren poured in 21 points and had six rebounds, while Alicia Brookins had eight boards.

King maintains a tie for fourth place with Lees-McRae College in the conference standings by virtue of the Bobcats' 66-63 loss to Barton College on Saturday afternoon. The two teams split the season series. King will next take the floor on Monday night in a 7:00 p.m. game against Converse College.