CHARLESTON, S.C. – With under ten-seconds to play and the score tied at 66-66, senior Afreyea Tolbert put the ball on the floor, split two Blue Hen defenders and knocked down a left handed jumper to give the Cougars a stellar, 68-66 victory over 2013 NCAA Tournament sweet-sixteen participant, University of Delaware.
Playing at home for the second time in four days, the Cougars (11-8, 4-2) had three players score in double figures and led by as many as 22 points over last year’s CAA champions before clinching the game in the closing moments.
The first half was all Cougars as the College – led by Tolbert’s 15 points – shot at a 45% clip, forced nine turnovers and played staunch defense, holding the Blue Hens (11-6, 3-3) to a 27% first half shooting display and blocking 5 shots.
After trading the lead in the early going, the Cougars turned up the heat on the Blue Hens, taking a 45-23 advantage to the locker room. Complimenting Tolbert’s effervescent first half offensive exhibition was junior center Mikaela Hopkins (Augusta, Ga.), who checked in with 12 points, 5 rebounds and four blocks in the opening twenty minutes of action.
The second half was a more balanced affair, as the Blue Hens quickly closed gap to just 8 points following a Kelsey Buchanan jumper with 11:32 left in the game. The resilient Cougars were undaunted by the 15-3 Blue Hen run, reasserting a 19-point advantage through back to back layups from Breanna Bolden (Edgewater, Md.) and Mikaela Hopkins with just 6:58 left to play.
Coming in to the game College of Charleston head coach Natasha Adair described the Blue Hens as an “experienced team with a winning mindset”; an apt characterization as Delaware showed their mettle over the final six minutes.
Baskets from Buchanan, Courtni Green, Hannah Jardine and Akeema Richards cut the deficit to just seven points, with 1:56 to play. Then, after converting on four consecutive trips to the free throw line, Delaware the tied the game at 66-66 with just 19 seconds remaining.
It was then that Tolbert provided the game’s defining moment:
After catching the ball on the baseline with the seconds ticking away, Tolbert passed up a long range jumper, opting instead to attack the basket. Taking her defender off the bounce, Tolbert managed her way in to the lane just before the help side defense could rotate over and put up a contested left handed jumper that found its way in the basket, giving the College a two-point, 68-66 lead with 4.7 seconds to play.
Delaware’s last second prayer went unanswered and the College proudly walked away with a quality, 68-66 victory to put themselves back in to third place in the overall conference standings.
Next up for the Cougars is a Friday, Jan. 31, matchup with the conference leading Dukes of James Madison University, on the road at the James Madison Convocation Center, where tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
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