by Kevin Buczek
BANNER ELK, N.C.-Barton College has won its first three games of the New Year and will try and remain at least tied atop the Conference Carolinas women's basketball standings when the Lady Bulldogs visit Lees-McRae College on Wednesday. Tip-off in Williams Gymnasium is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Barton College Women's Basketball
The Lady Bulldogs moved over .500 for the first time this season after knocking off King University, 84-76, on Saturday for a season-best third straight victory. Barton is 7-6 overall and in a three-way tie atop the Conference Carolinas standings with a 4-1 league ledger (tied with Limestone and Belmont Abbey).
Senior guard Nyeshea Willie scored a career-high 39 points in Saturday's win against the Tornado. Willie has moved up to third in NCAA Division II (287 programs) in scoring with 23.8 points per game. Willie is the only player in the league averaging over 20 points per game. The reigning Conference Carolinas Player of the Year is the league's best free throw shooter and ranks 14th nationally making her free throws at a clip of 91.6%. Willie also ranks fifth in the conference in both assists per game (4.0) and steals per game (2.08) and ninth in made 3-pointers (1.77).
Junior forward Brianna Thomas and senior guard Ashley Thornton both average 10 points per game while fellow starters freshman guard Tiffany Webster (8.6 points) and senior forward Cassandra Brown (7.3) follow closely behind.
Thornton is the league's most accurate three-point shooter at 45.0% and is fourth in the league making 2.45 trifectas per contest.
Thomas (8.4 rebounds) and Brown (7.5) are fourth and seventh in the league, correspondingly, in rebounding. Thomas has three double-doubles.
Barton sits atop the conference in free throw percentage (76.0%) and commits the fewest turnovers (16.8).
The Lady Bulldogs swept Lees-McRae last season winning both games by double digits, 71-52 and 82-58. Willie averaged 14.5 points in the two triumphs and BC shot around 50% in both contests.
Barton – 4-4 on the road this season – is riding a 16-game win streak against Lees-McRae.
Lees-McRae College Women's Basketball
The Lady Bobcats have won two consecutive contests to remain just one game out of first place and tied with three other teams in fourth place in the league standings at 3-2. Lees-McRae (6-8 overall) opened up 2014 with a road loss to Belmont Abbey (77-66) but has since posted home wins against Erskine (75-74) and Pfeiffer (57-53).
LMC is undefeated in Williams Gym at 4-0.
Lees-McRae may be the most veteran team the league with nine of the 10 players that have competed this season being letter winners with the program (with all 10 players averaging double digit minutes played per game).
Forward Alyssa Munson has taken over as the Bobcats scoring leader averaging 13.4 points per game. Munson is shooting 53% from the field (2nd in the league) and adds 6.2 rebounds per contest.
Senior guard Lauren Lewis and junior forward Kerri Belcher also average over 10 points per game at 11.9 and 11.6, respectively. Lewis is LMC's top three-point threat making 2.5 treys per contest (3rd in the league). Belcher is the Lady Bobcats top rebounder ranking fifth in the league with 8.1 rebounds per game. Belcher also ranks third in the conference with an 82.0% free throw percentage.
Senior guard Layana De Souza (8.9 points) junior guard Kabrina Truesdale (7.6 points) are the Bobcats other two primary starters.
Lees-McRae is an aggressive team that is second in the conference with 9.6 steals per game. Belcher (2.5 steals) and Truesdale (2.0) are both in the top-10 of the league in thefts.
However, the Lady Bobcats risky defense can lead to high-quality shots if able to protect the ball with opponents shooting 42.1-percent against Lees-McRae (worst in the league). LMC also commits over 20 fouls per game (ninth).
Last year, Lewis (13.5 points) and Truesdale (13.0 points) both averaged double figures scoring in two games against Barton.
LMC last defeated Barton, 68-68, on Feb. 26, 2005. The Bobcats have been blown out by the Lady Bulldogs in most of the next 16 encounters but did nearly knock off Barton two seasons ago losing 67-66. Belcher had 18 points in the showdown on Jan. 28, 2012.