By Pete Christy - email
JACKSON, TN (KCBD) – Emily Atkins registered a game-high 27 points and No.6 seed Lubbock Christian University overcame 12 blocked shots by No.3 seed Columbia College (Mo.) en route to a 76-64 upset victory in the opening round of the 2001 NAIA Div. I Women's Basketball National Championship Thursday morning at Oman Arena. The Lady Chaps advance to Friday's 12:30 p.m. contest, where they will face No.2 seed Bethel University (Tenn.).
The No. 22 nationally ranked Lady Chaparrals never trailed the No. 11 nationally ranked Cougars. Freshmen Haley Burton and Atkins had the opening three field goals of the game and the Lady Chaps opened the game on an 8-0 run. Atkins had eight of LCU's first 12 points and her basket with 15:40 remaining in the first half led to a 12-2 LCU advantage. Lauren Sparks hit a three-pointer with 10:15 remaining in the half for a 26-10 advantage and LCU's largest lead of the game. Columbia stormed back with an 8-0 run late in the half and they cut the LCU lead to 33-29 with 2:28 remaining in the half.
Columbia's zone defense, with seven blocks in the first half, forced LCU into 16 three-point field goal attempts, but LCU was well below their season average of 38.7% with four making their way into the basket for a 25% percentage in the half. LCU shot just 33.3% (14/42) in the half, but their 42 attempts was 17 more attempts than the Cougars, who were plagued by 13 first half turnovers and 12 offensive rebounds by LCU. Atkins finished the first half with 16 points.
Ashley Fisher had the opening basket for Columbia in the second half, but LCU responded with an 8-2 run to build the lead to 49-37 four minutes into the second half. The teams traded baskets the rest of the way, with LCU leading as much as 13 and never leading by less than eight points. Atkins and Courtney Wilson combined for 19 points for the Lady Chaps in the second half, while Columbia was led in the half by Fisher and Julie Teeple, who each had seven points in the second half. LCU scored 12 points from the free-throw line in the half.
Atkins' 27 points marked her second best performance of the season behind a 36-point performance on Nov. 5 against Northern New Mexico University. She hit a career best 10 free-throws (on 11 attempts) and matched her career best making nine consecutive attempts before missing her tenth attempt. The Lady Chaps were 5-of-22 (22.7%) from three-point range (third straight game with at least 22 attempts from three-point range), with two coming from an unlikely source in Courtney Wilson. The Lady Chaps junior had only made one of four attempts on the entire season before going 2-of-2 in the game. Wilson finished with 18 points, missing her career high by two points. Columbia received 14 points each from Denise Rosario and Fisher and 11 points from Amanda Phillips. Fisher and Phillips each had three blocks, as six different players combined for their 12 blocks.
The loss for the Cougars ended their 19-game win streak and it ended their season with a 28-6 record. Their last loss came on New Year's Day. LCU improved to 22-9 overall on the season, and they are now 9-7 all-time at the national championships and 5-3 in opening round contests. They advance to face Tennessee based Bethel University, who carries a No.6 national ranking. Bethel opened tournament play defeating Evangel University (Mo.) 47-38 to match the lowest combined points total in tournament history.
Friday's game between LCU and Bethel can be viewed and/or heard online through www.lcuchaps.com and will be broadcast locally in Lubbock on KKAM 1340 AM "The Fan."