Nova Southeastern women cruise, reach South Region title game

The shots just keep falling for the top-seeded Sharks.

Nova Southeastern (27-4) routed Albany State (21-7) with a 96-69 victory Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Division II South Region tournament at Nova’s Don Taft University Center.

Crisp passing, hot outside shooting and a dominant performance on the boards propelled Nova to its second appearance in a row in the South Region championship game.

Junior guard Danielle Robinson led the Sharks with 21 points.

Nova will play Tampa in the South Region championship game at 7 p.m. Monday, the fourth time the teams have met this season.

Nova lost twice to Tampa in the regular season but beat the Spartans last week in the Sunshine State Conference championship game.

“I haven’t really thought about Tampa quite yet,” Nova coach LeAnn Freeland said, “but I’m sure I’ll be thinking about Tampa a lot over the next 48 hours.”

Nova led by as many as 22 in the first half and took a 21-point lead into the locker room. After scoring 34 points in the first half Friday night, the Sharks lit up the Rams for 51 points at the halfway mark. The Sharks went 8 for 21 (38 percent) from the three-point line and outrebounded the Rams 24 to 16 in the first half.

“We’re really fortunate to have a team full of players who can knock down threes,” Freeland said. “Generally, when there’s a large number of three-point shooters, if one starts hitting it seems to catch on to the next one.”

Sophomore guard Taylor Buie scored the Sharks’ first eight points and assisted on an and-one layup by junior forward Jasmine Wilkins with 15:25 remaining to take the lead. The Sharks would lead the Rams for the rest of the game.

Senior forward Julia Salmio tied her career high of 12 points in seven minutes of action and finished with 19 points, a new career high for the veteran.

“It was fun to play,” Salmio said. “I was more accurate than I had been during the regular season. I had my flow.”

Albany State struggled to keep up with Nova, shooting 38 percent (12 of 32) and a paltry 18 percent (2-11) from behind the arc in the first half. Senior guard Kourtney Alexander led the Rams with 18 points.

The second half was just a formality.

Senior forward Richelle Carach opened the second-half scoring for the Sharks with an easy layup, a common theme throughout the night. Nova put away any hopes of a comeback for Albany State with a 13-6 run in the first four minutes of the half.

On the team’s mind-set coming out of halftime, Freeland said, “We got to make sure we maintain this intensity and team play to make sure we finish the way we want to.”

The Sharks finished the game 34 of 69 (49 percent) from the field to go with 49 rebounds compared with 33 for the Rams. Nova led Albany State by as many as 36.

Senior guards Jessica Russi and Amanda Burakoski finished the game with a combined 16 assists.