No. 23 Columbus State advanced to the NCAA Southeast Region semifinals after a 79-72 win over sixth-seeded Wingate in the NCAA Tournament first round on Friday. The game was played at the Timken Center in Gaffney, S.C.
Michelle Mitchell led the way for the Lady Cougars on Friday. The two-time Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year had 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Ashley Asouzu added 15 points, while Gabby Williams chipped in 13 points and matched her season high with seven assists. Britteny Tatum also finished in double figures with 11 points on the day.
"I'm really proud of our team bouncing back after Sunday's loss and getting this NCAA Tournament win," head coach Jonathan Norton said. "We moved the ball really well today and everyone chipped in offensively."
Things got off to a great start for Columbus State as the Lady Cougars raced out to a 14-4 advantage. With the game tied at two, Mitchell grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it back in and Williams buried a three on the following possession. Asouzu and Ashley Johnson got in on the mix with baskets and Williams made it a 10-point game with a three-point play.
Wingate (21-9) clawed its way back into the game, outscoring the Lady Cougars 8-2 over the next three minutes to cut the lead down to just 16-12 after the first quarter. The run for the Bulldogs continued into the second as WU scored the first five points to take its first lead at 17-16.
Columbus State answered right back though, getting a three from Tatiana Wayne on the ensuing possession to surge back in front.
CSU stretched the lead back out to five, but the Bulldogs put together seven straight points midway through the second to hold a 27-25 lead with three minutes until halftime.
Tatum drained a three to give Columbus State a one-point edge (30-29), however the Bulldogs responded with one of their own to move back in front. The lead exchanged hands multiple times in the final minutes of the first half with Asouzu getting the final say on a three-point play with one second remaining to put CSU in front 38-34 at the break.
Up 46-40 four minutes into the third, CSU could not put Wingate away. The Bulldogs ran off seven straight points to move in front, but the lead wouldn't last long. After both sides missed on their respective ends, Mitchell knocked down her only three of the day giving Columbus State a lead it would not relinquish.
With the game still hanging in the balance at 59-55 and 8:45 to play, Asouzu converted another three-point play and Erin Morrow hit a three from straight on to push the margin out to 10 again for the first time since the opening quarter.
The game never got closer than six the rest of the way as the Lady Cougars put the game on ice at the free throw line down the stretch.
Columbus State shot a season high 49.2 percent (29-for-59) from the field, knocking down 7-of-22 three point attempts. The Lady Cougars were 82.4 percent (14-of-17) from the free throw line.
Wingate finished the day at 41.5 percent (27-of-65) overall and shot 53.8 percent (7-for-13) from outside. The Bulldogs became just the fifth team to out rebound the Lady Cougars this season, holding a 39-33 advantage on the glass.
Columbus State (25-5) will take on Francis Marion in the semis. The Lady Patriots posted a 62-61 win over Lander. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.