Sioux City, Iowa – In two of the last three years, the Bryan College Lions Women's Basketball team have kept their postseason play alive with trips to Sioux City to battle the best of the best in the NAIA DII National Championship, but on both occasions top-ranked Concordia University (Neb.) has cut their time short. The Bulldogs captured an overwhelming 101-66 victory over the Lions on Wednesday. No. 1 seed Concordia is set to face-off with No. 5 seed Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.) in the round of 16 on Friday, Mar. 10, at 11:15am ET.
Bryan was the first to strike when Megan Billingsby (SR/Dickson, Tenn.) capitalized in the paint, grabbed the defensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and Brandi Whitted (SR/Cleveland, Tenn.) knocked down the trey to go up 5-0. Concordia responded with a three-pointer to slow the Lion's momentum and spark their rally, outscoring Bryan 8-2 to take over 11-7. The Bulldogs slowly built their edge to double-digits at 25-14 and then 27-16 with less than a minute remaining in the opening quarter. Just before the first quarter came to a close, Billingsby secured a rebound and kicked it out to Erisha Talley (SR/Alexandria, Va.) who went coast-to-coast and made her shot along with drawing the foul. She completed the and-one play to pull within eight points, 27-19, heading into the second quarter.
Whitted began the second period just as she did in the first, nailing down a shot from deep to close the deficit to 27-22, which was the closest Bryan would come to Concordia for the rest of the contest. The Bulldogs answered back with six consecutive points for a 33-22 advantage. The difference wouldn't dip below double-digits as Concordia surged ahead for an 18-point lead as the first half came to an end, 53-35.
The Lions outshot the Bulldogs 50 percent compared to their 47.5 percent through the first two quarters and outrebounded Concordia 21-15, but it was Bryan's 22 turnovers that proved detrimental, while Concordia surrendered only nine.
Back-to-back buckets by the Bulldogs to start play in the third quarter extended their advantage to 23 points, 58-35. Billingsby found the bottom of the net with a score from inside, and Amber Levi (SO/Dayton, Tenn.) locked in from downtown to slim the margin to 18 points midway through the period at 67-49. Concordia pieced together a 7-0 run at the three-minute mark for a comfortable 26-point lead, 77-51. With 16 seconds left, Billingsby got the offensive board and scored the second chance basket, drew the foul, and completed the three-point play. Concordia took the ball out, sped down the court and hit a shot from underneath to take a 79-54 lead into the final quarter.
The Bulldogs outscored the Lions 22-12 in the fourth quarter to end all hope of Bryan's. Concordia sealed the game with a 101-66 final.
For the game, the Bulldogs shot 44.6 percent from the floor while the Lions connected on 41.4 percent. Bryan had the narrow edge in three-point territory with 35.7 percent compared to their 34.3 percent. Concordia won the battle off the glass 45-38 and bettered Bryan in offensive rebounds 18-8. Despite the Bulldogs turning the ball over 14 times, they managed to force 32 turnovers for the Lions. Concordia swiped 23 steals. The Bulldogs took advantage with 38 points off turnovers, 19 second-chance points, 16 points off fast breaks, and showed depth with 51 points coming from the bench.
Billingsby led the Lions with her eighth double-double of the season, ranking her 5th in the Appalachian Athletic Conference in most double-doubles. She recorded 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and pulled down 11 misses. Levi followed with 17 points, shooting 4-of-14, 3-of-7 behind the arc, and a perfect 6-of-6 at the foul line. Maebry McNeese (JR/Nashville, Tenn.) was the only other Lion to produce double-digits with 10 points after knocking down 4-of-8 in the game and 2-of-2 free throws, while also aiding with four boards. Tally collected eight points and two assists, and Whitted helped with six points on two treys and corralled four rebounds. Tonesha Allison (SO/Shelbyville, Tenn.) was quite with two points, but she made her presence known with five rebounds. The only other Lion to score was Keneisha Love (FR/Pulaski, Tenn.) who chipped in two points.
The Lions didn't have an easy road to nationals as they made history becoming the first women's team in Appalachian Athletic Conference history to win four games in four days to win the conference tournament title. Bryan completed an amazing run with a 72-47 win over Tennessee Wesleyan University to take the AAC Tournament crown. The Lions had a slow start to the season and battled their way to a 14-14 overall record and 12-10 conference record to wrap up regular-season play. Milligan College (Tenn.), the AAC regular-season champions, and Reinhardt University (Ga.) who finished 27th in the final poll and earned an at-large bid also represented the AAC in Sioux City.
Milligan was topped by No. 2 seed Dakota Wesleyan University (S.D.) 66-54 on Thursday, and Reinhardt has a meeting with No. 2 seed College of the Ozarks (Mo.) on Friday, Mar. 9, with tipoff slated for 4:30pm ET.
Bryan concludes the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 18-15.