By Carey Phillips
Top-seeded Samford outscored seventh-seeded Western Carolina 19-4 in the second quarter last Thursday and cruised to a 77-62 victory over Western Carolina in the first round of the Southern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville.
Natalie Armstrong scored 18 points for the Lady Bulldogs. Paige Serup and Sarah Myers both added 12, and Charity Brown had 11.
Jewel Smalls paced the Lady Cats, who finished the season 5-25, with 23 points. She was named third team all-conference and second team all-tournament by the media.
Also scoring in double figures were Diarra Smith with 15 and Lauren LaPlant with 14.
WCU had an 8-4 edge on Smalls’ three-pointer with 7:47 to play in the opening period.
Samford took the lead for good at 12-10 on Armstrong’s layup at the 5:08 mark.
Serup, Brown and Myers all had three-pointers in a 9-2 run for a 23-14 lead with 1:43 on the clock.
The margin was 23-19 at the quarter break.
The Lady Bulldogs went on a 17-2 run the last nine minutes of the half. Serup ended the spurt with a pair of three-pointers for a 42-23 halftime lead.
The game’s largest lead was 54-29 after Raven Omar’s layup with 4:14 to play in the third period, which ended with Samford in front 56-35.
Western came no closer than the final margin.
WCU had one of its best shooting games of the season and finished at 54.5 percent from the floor. The Lady Bulldogs made 49.1 percent of their tries.
Armstrong’s nine rebounds helped Samford to a 24-22 edge on the boards. Smalls led the Lady Cats with six.
Western committed 20 turnovers, and the Lady Bulldogs had 12.
Completing the WCU scoring were Andrea Martin-Ruiz with four and Alyssa Walker, Tembre Moates and Judith Martin-Ruiz all with two.
Andrea Martin-Ruiz was named all-freshman by the coaches and media. The coaches selected Walker all-freshman.