The No. 4 seed Lady Bisons opened up the Elite 8 in Columbus, Ohio with a 73-69 win against the No. 5 Queens College Knights out of New York on Tuesday, March 21.
The Lady Bisons trailed 21-18 after one quarter of action. Junior forward Sydney Jones led the Bisons in scoring after the first quarter with six points. Forward Mackenzie Rowland, Queens College’s second-leading scorer, led the Knights with eight points. The Knights got into foul trouble early in the game, and Merrick Rowland had to leave the game in the first quarter with three fouls.
“We knew going in that we would have to play good, tough defense,” senior guard Andi Haney said. “It alluded to what was going to be a rough game, going back and forth. But I was just really proud of how well my team played defense. I think we showed a lot of heart.”
In the second quarter, the Lady Bisons shot 43 percent from the field, and their defense held the Knights to 23 percent shooting. Turnovers hurt the Lady Bisons, but two big blocks from forward Mackenzie MacNamara and a shot-clock violation by the Knights sparked an 8-2 run by Harding to close out the half, sending them into halftime with a 33-31 lead. Junior forward Caroline Hogue and Jones led the Bisons with eight points each, and Jones added seven rebounds as well. MacKenzie Rowland had 11 points and two rebounds in the half for the Knights.
“We knew that (MacKenzie Rowland) was a big key going into the game, and we had to shut them down from the inside out,” Jones said. “We had a plan to let her do what she was going to do, and to just stop their game inside first.”
Harding came out strong to start the second half. They went on a 15-2 run to take a 48-33 lead with 4:28 to go in the half. The defense was able to force the Knights to commit turnovers, and Mackenzie Rowland committed her fourth foul with about four minutes remaining, causing her to leave the game. Harding went into the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead.
“In the locker room, our main focus was our rebounding,” head coach Tim Kirby said. “I thought we were a little more efficient than they were offensively, and we also added 18 offensive rebounds. Each team was trying to match each other’s intensity going to the glass. It just shows that good things happen when you go and get offensive rebounds. We didn’t necessarily win that battle, but I thought we did a pretty good job of it.”
The Lady Bisons had some issues turning the ball over throughout the game, but especially in the final quarter. Harding used its last timeout with about eight minutes remaining. Queens College entered into their pressure defense, and because Harding was out of timeouts, it forced them to turn the ball over when pressured. The Knights went on a 13-1 run to tie the game, but Haney was able to knock down a clutch three-pointer to take the lead with five minutes left. The Knights would not tie or take the lead for the remainder of the game.
“Honestly, that shot had nothing to do with me,” Haney said. “A lot of that had to do with how fast my team was pushing the ball up the floor, and really attacking. They are the ones that got that open shot for me.”
Jones finished the game for Harding with a double-double, 22 points and 17 rebounds. Hogue added 13 points and seven rebounds, finishing the game with 15 points and five assists.
Harding will face off against the No. 1 seed, the undefeated Ashland Eagles, tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. CST. A live stream of the game can be viewed on the Harding Sports Network or at NCAA.com.