SOUTHAVEN, Miss., – Stacey Owens scored a career-high 31 points as Harding eliminated North Alabama 73-66 in the opening round of the Gulf South Conference women's basketball tournament Thursday at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss.
UNA was down 39-31 at the half and trailed by double digits on two different occasions in the final 20 minutes of play. The Lions were able to rally each time, but could never take the lead down the stretch. With the loss, North Alabama ends its season at 17-14. Harding improves to 17-11 and will face Arkansas Tech in second-round action on Saturday.
Four different players reached double figures in scoring for UNA, including three coming off the bench. Sanqueeta Meardith led the way with 14 points on the night. Sequoyah Cliff and Jameica York added 12 points each while Niala Harris turned in 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Lions.
Harding was able to advance by winning the rebounding battle and getting to loose balls.
"I thought that we fought hard and played well at times," said UNA head coach Terry Fowler. "We just didn't get any breaks when we needed one. The ball just didn't bounce our way tonight."
Harding turned a turnover into a buzzer-beating layup to take the eight-point lead at the break. In the second half, the Bisons hit two quick shots to take a 43-31 lead.
The Lions responded by scoring 13 straight points to take a 44-43 run with 13:42 remaining. A three-point basket by Owens on Harding's ensuing possession, however, gave the lead right back to the Bisons and the team never trailed again.
Harding extended its lead to 63-53 before the Lions made one final push. A pair of free throws by Meardith made the score 69-66 at the 1:06 mark, but UNA would not score again.