What a difference three months makes.
The Nova Southeastern women’s basketball team embarrassed Benedict in the Shark Invitational in December with a lopisded victory.
On Friday night, the Sharks (26-4) beat the Tigers (20-10) 75-61 in a hard-fought game that was closer than the final score in the first round of the NCAA Division II South Region tournament held in the Don Taft University Center.
Crafty off-ball movement led to open layups throughout the game for Nova. The Sharks finished with 45 percent shooting from the field despite missing the bulk of their outside shots. Nova managed to take a four-point lead into the half thanks to eight made free throws compared with one for Benedict.
“Their cuts are really hard to guard,” Benedict coach James Rice said. “We just wanted to hang our hats on the defensive end.”
Benedict’s hustle to get back on defense in transition prevented Nova from building an insurmountable lead in the first half. The Sharks finished the game scoreless on the fast break.
Nova forward Richelle Carach scored seven quick points in the opening four minutes of the second half after a six-point first half for the senior. Carach finished with 15 points after leaving the game because of a hard fall with 2:13 remaining.
Benedict’s pressure defense kept the Tigers in the game by forcing 14 turnovers in the second half. The two teams traded layups for the first 13 minutes of the second half with Nova taking a two-point lead only to see Benedict tie the score on the next trip down.
Two free throws by Benedict guard Santera Grooms gave the Tigers a 55-54 with 7:25 remaining. Nova outscored Benedict the rest of the way 20 to 7.
Nova guard Taylor Buie led the Sharks with 18 second-half points and finished with a game high 23. Buie’s three-pointer with 1:16 remaining gave Nova its first double-digit lead and sealed the victory for the top seeded Sharks.
Nova will play Albany State (21-6) in the second round at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.