by Kevin Buczek
WILSON, N.C.-Seventh-seed Barton College will try and defeat regionally ranked Belmont Abbey College for a third time this season when the Lady Bulldogs play at the second-seeded Crusaders in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball Tournament Powered by OthroCarolina on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The semifinals and finals of the Conference Carolinas Basketball Tournaments Powered by OrthoCarolina will be played at the Cabarrus Center in Concord, N.C. The Barton-Belmont Abbey winner will play the winner of the No. 6 Erskine at No. 3 Mount Olive game in the semifinals on Wed., March 5 at 5:30 p.m. The championship game is slated for a 5 p.m., tip on Thurs., March 6. The other half of the bracket features No. 8 North Greenville at Limestone and No. 5 Lees-McRae at No. 4 King.
Belmont Abbey sports information will be providing Live Video of Saturday's quarterfinal (no live stats).
Barton College Women's Basketball
The Lady Bulldogs slipped to the seventh seed in a big cluster of teams after losing their regular season finale to University of Mount Olive, 76-66, on Tuesday. Barton (12-14 overall, 9-9 conf.) would have tied Mount Olive and King for third place with a win in that game to show balance throughout the league.
Barton defeated Belmont Abbey in both meetings in the regular season by scores of 76-67 in Belmont and 73-71 (OT) in Wilson. However, the Lady Bulldogs may be without two players that started in each of those two regular season wins.
Senior guard Nyeshea Willie – the reigning Conference Carolinas Player of the Year that ranks third in the DII with 24.4 points per game – and junior forward Cassandra Brown are both battling lower body injuries.
The Lady Bulldogs do have three other primary starters that all average within one point of each other. Junior forward Brianna Thomas leads the group with 10.2 points while freshman guard Tiffany Webster (9.7 points) and senior guard Ashley Thornton (9.4 points) follow closely behind.
Thornton, who is a three-point threat averaging 2.08 made 3-pointers per game (5th in the league) at an accuracy of 37.4% (2nd), was named to the Conference Carolinas All-Tournament Team in 2013.
Thomas is third in the league in rebounding with 8.2 boards per game.
Willie led the Lady Bulldogs scorers in the first two encounters with Belmont Abbey with 26 and 25 points but she did get support in both contests. In the first meeting, it was the forwards that played a key factor with Thomas netting 11 points and freshman Caila Carter posting 10 points. Two months later, it was fellow guards that complimented Willie as Webster cashed in 17 points and Thornton tallied 12.
Barton has a 14-game win streak against the Abbey.
Belmont Abbey College Women's Basketball
The Crusaders have won six consecutive games since losing to Barton on Feb. 6 in finishing as the league runner-up. Belmont Abbey (21-7 overall, 15-3 conf.) is ranked sixth in the current NCAA Division II Southeast Region top-10 poll.
Junior 6-foot forward McKenzie Owen, who averaged less than eight points per game last year, has become Abbey's top offensive producer averaging 17.6 points per game by making a league-best 50.6% of her shots attempted. Owen also averages 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest.
Sophomore guard Morgan Midkiff follows with 15.3 points per game and is the Crusaders' primary outside threat making an average of exactly two 3-pointers per contest (seventh in the league). Senior guard Kelsey Long was a Third Team All-Conference honoree last year and is providing 10.3 points per game and was named the league's last Player of the Week on Tuesday.
Belmont Abbey – tabbed fifth in the preseason coaches' poll – has won many games with its defense only allowing 61.1 points per game and holding opponents to just 35.9% shooting.
The frontcourt duo of 6-0 senior Melisa Foures (7.2 rebounds) and 5-11 junior Tajanna Brown (6.0) has led the Abbey to a positive rebounding margin at the end of the regular season.
Senior guard Candace Fox runs the point for the Crusaders and leagues the conference with 5.5 assists per game.
Belmont Abbey is 11-2 at home including 9-0 in the Wheeler Center since the start of the New Year.
The Crusaders last defeated Barton on Jan. 10, 2008 in a close 71-70 home victory.
Owen (15.5 points), Midkiff (14.5) and Brown (14.0) all averaged double digit points in Abbey's first two games against Barton this season.