Halverson Leads CNU into USA South Championship With 61-51 Win Over Maryville

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Coming into the USA South semifinal matchup against third-seeded Maryville College, fans that were paying attention knew the story was going to be three-point shooting; after all, the Scots rank third nationally in long-range shooting and the Captains rank fifth in three-point defense. However, it was senior Kelly Halverson that stole the spotlight when she knocked down seven three-pointers, including six in the first half, for CNU (25-2), leading the Captains into the USA South Championship game against Ferrum with a 61-51 win over the Scots (23-4). 

The senior guard from Poquoson, Va. helped the Captains get out to an early double-digit lead and the CNU defense was strong from start to finish in the wire-to-wire win. Halverson finished with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Halverson was hot early, hitting her first three shots from long-range and helping the Captains build a 9-2 lead. The CNU defense forced three turnovers and five missed shots in the spurt, over a span of nearly five minutes of game time. After Nicole Mitchell and Camry Green combined for six of the next seven CNU points, it was back to Halverson from outside. The senior knocked down two more three's with less than seven minutes to go on back-to-back possessions and CNU took it's largest lead of the game, a 14-point edge at 22-8. 

The sixth three of the first half from Halverson came with 4:30 remaining, giving CNU a 27-13 lead, but the Scots would close the half on a 10-2 run to pull back within six, 29-23, at the break. Tayler Smith was key, hitting 5 of 7 shots in the first half and scoring 10 points in the frame. For CNU, Halverson already had 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, leading a team effort of 45.5% (10-22) from the floor. 

The name of the game in the second half for CNU was just to hold on. The fourth-ranked Maryville offense, in terms of field goal percentage, was likely to shoot better and CNU just needed to hold onto the lead. But the Captains defense was up to the task -- in fact, the Fighting Scots shot worse in the second stanza as a team, hitting just 8-of-27 attempts for a 29.6% effort. 

The Captains maintained the lead between 6 and 11 points throughout the second half, with Maryville pulling to within four just once. A pair of free-throws by Lauren Burnett with 9:14 remaining made the score 43-39, but who else would answer the call for CNU but Halverson. On the other end, Halverson got a dish from Mitchell and her three rained true for her seventh made shot from distance and the lead was back to seven, 46-39. 

From that point, the CNU defense and free-throw shooting took over, hanging on for a 61-51 victory in the semifinals. Halverson's 25 came on 8-of-12 shooting and the senior added a rebound, assist and two steals. CNU also got double figures from Mitchell, who added 14 points, five rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal. Sophomore Camry Green was just shy of a double-double, getting nine points and nine rebounds, while Tia Perry struggled offensively most of the night, but finished with eight points, three assists, two blocks and four steals. The junior also had a key scoop layup late in the game that helped put the game on ice. 

CNU will now advance to play Ferrum College, co-champion and top-seed of the USA South Tournament. The Championship Game will be played at 2:00 pm in the Crown Center Arena in Fayetteville, on Sunday afternoon. Ferrum defeated CNU in last year's conference title game, 82-56, on their home floor; the Captains hold an 8-2 all-time advantage in the postseason, with a 2-1 edge in championship games. 

Live stats and a live video webcast will be available at CNUsports.com