EDINBORO, Pa. – Kyria Buford, Aslea Williams and Brittany Ransom had over 20 points apiece, but it was a stifling second-half defense that made the difference as Shaw downed West Virginia Wesleyan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the win, the Lady Bears improve to 24-6 on the season and advance to the regional semifinals where they will take on Gannon, who defeated Johnson C. Smith earlier in the afternoon. West Virginia Wesleyan finishes the season 24-7.
"It's always good to advance," said Shaw head coach Jacques Curtis. "Everyone here is a good team. What we saw on the tape is pretty much the game we got."
Shaw, the top seed and defending champion in the region, struggled to put the Lady Bobcats away in the first, but after giving up 49 points in the first half, they held West Virginia Wesleyan to only 29 points in the second.
"Our depth wore them down in the second half," said Curtis. "We played ten players and averaged around 24 minutes or so, while most of their starters played well over 30 minutes. But if we hadn't been scoring in the first half, we would have been down by 20."
The first half was a back and forth affair with little defense, sharp shooting and high scores. Shaw's largest lead was midway through the first half when Ransom hit a three from the left wing to give the Lady Bears a 22-17 lead.
With 3:03 left in the first half, Danae Hill hit a three for the Lady Bobcats to give them a four-point advantage - their largest lead in the first - at 44-40.
In those closing three minutes, Shaw outscored WVWC 10-5 to take a one-point, 50-49, lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Lady Bobcats took a lead on the opening shot of the period, but would not lead again. Buford responded with a bucket that gave Shaw the lead and started what would become a 22-8 run that gave Shaw a 72-59 lead on a short jumper from Williams.
WVWC would score the next 11 points to trim the Shaw lead to only two when Lydia Bridenbaugh hit a three to make the score 72-70.
"You always know a good team is going to make a run," said Curtis. "Our thing was to hold a lead. The girls stayed poised."
The poised Lady Bears not only held off the Lady Bobcats, but - after an exchange of buckets - scored 14 straight points. With 4:15 left in the game, Buford hit a three to give Shaw an 88-72 lead. They would then cruise to the 92-78 win.
Buford, the CIAA Defensive Player of the Year and Second Team All-Atlantic Region, finished the game with 28 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and four assists.
"I wasn't really in a zone," Buford said, "I just wanted to make sure I did my part."
Williams finished with 22 points and Ransom added 20. Sequoyah Griffin also finished in double digits with 10 points. Brittney Spencer led the Lady Bears with six assists.
Four Lady Bobcats scored in double digits, led by Bridenbaugh with 27 while Jamie Kaufman had 18 and Daria Abros'kina and Brittany Maxey each had 11 points. Kaufman had 10 rebounds and Abros'kina nine assists to pace WVWC.
With the win, the Lady Bears advance to the regional semifinals where they will take on Gannon, whose Erie, PA, campus is less than 25 miles away.
"It's the semifinals; we're looking forward to it," Curtis said. "You want a crowd, whether they're rooting for you or not."
Game time for the semifinals match is Saturday at 5:00 p.m.