COLUMBUS, Ga. — The No. 13/20 LMU women’s basketball’s magical season came to an end as cold shooting doomed LMU’s hopes of an Elite Eight bid as they fell to Columbus State 86-75 in the NCAA Southeast Regional Semifinal.
The loss ends LMU’s record-breaking season at 28-5, and what a year it was.
The team tied for most wins in school history, the school’s first SAC Championship and the best conference record ever, a 20-0 start, the program’s highest national ranking ever, the program’s second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the program’s first appearance in the SAC Tournament finals, the first SAC Player of the Year and CoSIDA Academic All-American in Megan Pittman, four All-SAC performers for the first time, the program’s first SAC Coach of the Year in Krystal Evans, and the programs deepest run in the NCAA Tournament.
They also are currently ranked 13th in the latest WBCA/USA Today Division II Coaches’ Poll. They were 20th in the final D2SIDA National Media Poll of the season as well.
Pittman led LMU with 13 points and nine rebounds in her final game. Fellow senior Sydnie Anderson had 12 points and senior Josey Harding finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
Karsen Sims and Emily Griffith had 12 points apiece. All-SAC Second Team performer Shea Coker, who was leading LMU in scoring in the NCAA Tournament, did not play due to an injury.
Alexis Carter led Columbus State with 25 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.
“I’m just terribly proud of my team for their effort,” said LMU coach Krystal Evans. “We fought to the very end. This is a great bunch of girls. We have nothing to hang our heads about. We’ve accomplished more than any other team has in our school’s history and I’m so proud of these girls.”
LMU got things going as Emily Griffith put LMU ahead 2-0. Neither team was able to generate much offense early on as the score was only 10-8 at the first media timeout. The Lady Railsplitters shot only 28.6 percent for the quarter and trailed 17-15 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter saw CSU make a run to take a 27-20 lead on the back of several called LMU fouls. A deep three by Mathis cut the lead to 27-23, only to see the Cougars extend it back to 33-24.
A trey and a jumper by Sims would cut it to 35-31 late. After CSU took the 38-31 lead, a buzzer beater by Shermeria Quarles cut it to 38-33 at the half.
LMU made a run in the third and cut it to 42-40 with 6:30 left only to see the Cougars make a run themselves and eventually extend it to 56-48 late in the quarter. Free throws by Anderson cut it to 56-50 with a minute left.
A pair of late turnovers led to five quick points for the Cougars and LMU trailed 61-60 at the end of the third stanza.
The Lady Railsplitters cut the lead to six off of back to back baskets from Anderson. Foul trouble caused problems as Pittman and Harding both had four fouls early in the quarter.
The Cougars took advantage and drove at Pittman, fouling her out with 4:56 remaining. After that, they were able to pack it inside and extended the lead to as much as 17.
LMU would have several opportunities late and cut the lead down to 10, but they could not overcome the deficit.
The loss ends the careers of three special seniors.
Anderson played through injuries throughout her four years at LMU, and she ends her career with 380 points, 145 rebounds, 69 assists and 41 steals.
Josey Harding earned All-SAC Honorable Mention honors this season and ends her career with 768 points, 831 rebounds, 46 assists, 67 steals and 110 blocks. Her 353 rebounds are the most by a player in a single season in LMU history, as were her 128 offensive rebounds.
The blocks rank Harding fifth in the LMU career record books. She is also in the top 25 in LMU history in offensive rebounds (second), defensive rebounds (fourth), games played (tied for fourth), free-throw attempts (seventh), free throws made (tied for eighth) and rebounding average (14th).
Megan Pittman is arguably the most-decorated player in LMU women’s basketball history. This season alone she was the SAC Player of the Year, All-SAC First Team, CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team, First Team D2CCA All-Region, AstroTurf SAC Player of the Week three times, and is a strong candidate for not only SAC Scholar-Athlete but also D2CCA All-America and WBCA All-Region and All-America honors as well.
Pittman ends her three-year LMU career with 1,108 points, 831 rebounds, 120 assists, 99 steals and 52 blocks. She has re-written the record books; defensive rebounds (third), free-throw percentage (fourth), rebounding average (fourth), offensive rebounds (fourth), free throws made (10th), scoring average (12th), blocked shots (tied for 14th), points (15th) and free-throw attempts (15th).
And, quite fittingly on a team so reliant on rebounding, Harding and Pittman will be forever joined together in the LMU record books as they both finish their careers tied for third place with 831 rebounds each.