by Doug Page
Postgame Press Conference
JEFFERSON CITY, TENN. – Looking to advance to the NCAA Division II Southeast Region semifinals for just the third time in seven tries, the sixth-seeded Barton College Bulldogs fell just short on Friday against third-seeded and nationally-ranked No. 25 University of North Georgia. The Nighthawks used a 16-0 run in the second quarter en route to an 81-76 win over the Bulldogs in women's basketball action.
Barton (23-9) led the contest for 6:14 and took a 23-20 lead into the second quarter before the Nighthawks would take the momentum away. North Georgia (28-4) made its presence felt around the offensive rim as the Nighthawks tallied 18 boards while adding 19 second-chance points.
Senior Karimah Dean scored a career-high 26 points in the loss for the Bulldogs. Dean also added a team-high eight rebounds in the contest for Barton. The 26-point effort from Dean is the second-most in an NCAA tournament game for Barton and the most since Nyeshea Willie tallied 20 points against Limestone in 2013. Redshirt senior Alex Kimble added 18 points and four assists for the Bulldogs, while junior Dinah Neal added 11 points for BC. Senior Tatyana Jackson recorded 10 points, three assists, and two steals for Barton, while freshman Shanika Peterkin set a BC NCAA postseason record by recording nine blocks in the game. Peterkin finishes her season with 139 blocks and 4.3 blocks per game.
Vanessa Agrusa and Julie McKie each tallied 14 points in the contest to pace five double-digit scorers for North Georgia. Agrusa finished with eight rebounds and a game-high seven assists, while Julianne Sutton added 12 points and seven boards for the Nighthawks. Abbie Franklin notched 11 points, five assists, and two steals for the Nighthawks, while Deana Blankinship had eight points, nine boards, and four assists.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 4-0 lead as Kimble drained her first triple of the contest less than a minute into play. North Georgia countered by knotting the score as Blankinship and Franklin tallied consecutive buckets. The lead would swap hands until the Nighthawks opened a 14-9 lead with 5:07 left in the first quarter. Junior Kianna Wynn sparked a run for BC with a layup to trim the deficit to 14-11.
Four consecutive points from Dean gave Barton a 15-14 lead and some momentum back in the contest. The Bulldogs would go up 19-16 with 2:30 left in the quarter as Dean finished a run of scoring eight straight points for Barton. Holding a 21-20 advantage, Jackson hit a jumper with seven ticks left on the clock to send BC to the second quarter with a 23-20 edge.
In the second quarter, Dean upped Barton's lead to 25-22 before the Nighthawks would gain control of the contest. North Georgia's huge run started at the free-throw line as McKie connected on a pair of shots to trim the deficit to 25-24. McKie followed with a three-point play that would give North Georgia the lead for the remainder of the contest.
Trailing 38-25, Dean would end the run for the Nighthawks and a scoreless drought and get BC back onto the scoreboard with a layup with 5:19 left in the quarter. The offense would start clicking again for the Bulldogs as a 7-0 rally cut the deficit to 42-37 with 1:39 left. Jackson would again hit the last bucket of the quarter for BC as her layup with 19 seconds left trimmed North Georgia's lead to 44-39 heading into the half.
The Nighthawks controlled the pace of play again in the third quarter as North Georgia outscored BC 22-16 and would increase its lead to double-digits several times. Dean made a layup with 1:48 left in the third quarter as Barton looked to enter the fourth trailing by single-digits. The Nighthawks tallied the last bucket of the quarter as Blankinship beat the buzzer with a layup to give North Georgia a 66-55 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Barton outscored the Nighthawks in the fourth quarter but the double-digit deficit to start would be too much to overcome in the end. With 5:29 left in the contest, Jackson drained a trey to trim North Georgia's lead to 70-66. The biggest run of the game for BC saw the Bulldogs cut the gap to just two points as Dean followed with a layup to make it 70-68. A pair of free-throws from Agrusa put the Nighthawk lead back to four with 4:54 left to play.
North Georgia extended its lead to 76-68 as Barton hit another scoreless drought in the contest with just over three minutes left to play. Neal ended the run for North Georgia by finishing a layup for BC with 2:47 on the clock. With less than a minute to play a tip-in by Wynn trimmed the deficit to 79-76. On the next possession, Agrusa notched arguably the biggest offensive rebound of the game for North Georgia as her second-chance bucket with 21 seconds left sealed the 81-76 victory for the Nighthawks.
The Nighthawks tallied 23 points off 13 Barton turnovers, while the Bulldogs recorded 15 points off 11 turnovers by North Georgia. UNG also held a 58-40 edge when it came to points in the paint. North Georgia out-rebounded Barton 42-28 in the contest, including an 18-7 margin in offensive boards.