The Columbus State Lady Cougars successfully defended their top seed in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals on Friday with a 73-62 win over eighth seed Anderson at the Lumpkin Center.
CSU led wire to wire, jumping ahead of Anderson 20-13 at the outset.
“I’m very pleased we got a win against a very strong Anderson program,” said Columbus State head coach Anita Howard.
However, Howard was quick to find some deficiencies in the Lady Cougars’ play.
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“I’m not pleased with how we played on the defensive end,” she said. “This is our house, and we’re a defensive team. We also didn’t shoot well from the free-throw line. I was complaining about fouls, but we didn’t convert. That’s not the officials, that’s us. We’ll get back to the drawing board and go from there.
“Hats off to Anderson. They have some serious freshmen who will be a factor for years to come. To survive and advance this time of year, you have to play some strong basketball and be resilient.
“Overall, I’m pleased with the win. There were some negatives, but there are a whole lot of positives.”
Although the game was played on the Lady Cougars’ home court, the NCAA treats tournament games as neutral site events. For Howard and her girls, however, it was anything but.
“Tournament play is a little different,” Howard said. “It’s awkward we’re not in a hotel somewhere. Some of the girls went to class today, and it was a normal day. Now we actually experienced a tournament type game.”
Alexis Carter, who has led the Lady Cougars all season in scoring, topped 20 rebounds for the first time all season with 21. She also topped 20 in the scoring department, pitching in 22 to lead all scorers.
Gabby Williams, known more for her defensive prowess, had a season high with 19 points and was a huge cog in the CSU offense Friday.
“She doesn’t care about the accolades on offense,” Howard said of Williams. “She loves the defensive aspect of the game. For her to have 19 points was huge. She carried us and gave us a spark. She’s our defensive player of the year. We feed off of that.”
“I feel like it’s my job to pay attention,” Williams said. “If the other four aren’t on, I try to go ahead and score points.”
The Lady Cougars now await the winner of Friday night’s game between Lander and Limestone, which was incomplete as of press time. Columbus State is intimately familiar with Lander, having defeated them in the regular season and also in the Peach Belt championship game.
“Either way it goes, we’ll be prepared,” Howard said. “We know Lander well. Limestone is similar to Lander. They play up-tempo and press. It’s nothing we haven’t seen, just some different personnel.”
Game time is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.