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CSU to face Bentley in Elite 8 showdown

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

The Clayton State Lady Lakers will face Bentley College Tuesday at the NCAA Division II Women's Elite 8 in St. Joseph, Mo.

Clayton State captured the Southeast Regional with a 76-60 victory over Lander Monday night.

It was the second meeting this year between the two Peach Belt Conference foes with CSU winning both meetings.

Bentley knocked off Pace College to win the East Regional 64-61.

Clayton State, which spent about four weeks ranked No. 1 in the NCAA Division II poll, has set a school record for wins, posting a 31-1 record.

They are currently ranked No. 2 in the country. Bentley is ranked 15th.

CSU's only loss came against USC-Aiken in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. Game time for the contest is set for 1 p.m.

CSU pulled away from Lander with two second-half runs to reach the Elite 8.

Bentley trailed by four with 30 seconds left in the game against Pace before coming back to win.

Other Elite 8 games include Metro State vs. Shaw, 3 p.m., Arkansas Tech vs. Michigan Tech, 7 p.m. and Northwest Missouri vs. Cal-Poly Pomona 9 p.m.

Seniors step up for CSU: The Clayton State Lakers are led by senior Teshymia Tillman. Tillman comes into game against Bentley averaging 14.9 points per game. In just two years at CSU, the junior college transfer from Gilford Tech Community College has gone over 1,000 points in her career.

Other seniors include Latonda Bruce, Renee Jackson, and Brenna Fort. Genesis Kelly played in three games before an injury sidelined her for the season. She is expected to be red-shirted and return to CSU next year.

"Seniors get to this point and they don't want their careers to end," Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox said. "Our younger players want to keep it going for our seniors, too."

Been there before: Clayton State is no strangers to making it to the Elite 8. In addition to this season, Cox has led CSU to the Elite 8 in 2006-07 (Final Four) and in 2008-09.

Lots of wins: University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt is the all-time winningest coach in college basketball with more than 1,000 wins. Bentley coach Barbara Stevens is second all-time with 821 victories.

Nothing wrong with Division II: They often fly under the radar of the bigger more well-known Division I programs, but there is plenty of talent on the rosters of the eight teams getting ready to via for a Division II national title.

"None of us would be here if we didn't have a Division I-caliber player or two on our roster," Cox said.

Tillman began her college career at Western Carolina before heading to junior college then CSU. Dremeka Griggs, who played at Jonesboro High School, played one season of college baketball at Jacksonville, making the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman team.

How they got here: Clayton State went through the reglar season with an undefeated record.

After winning the Peach Belt Conference regular season, Clayton State's only loss of the year came against USC-Aiken in the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.

Clayton State is averaging averagin 80.5 points per game.

Defensively, it has given up 57.9 points per game.

In addition to Tillman's 14.9 points per game. Tanisha Woodward is averaging 11.6 points per game and Griggs 11.0. Griggs has done most of her scoring coming off the bench.

Bentley is averaging 73.4 points per game and giving up 60.3. They are led by a balanced attack of three scorers.

Jacqui Brugliera leads the way with 15 points. Lauren Battista is averaging 13.4 points and Katherine Goodwin is averaging 11.3.

For your viewing pleasure: Should Clayton State advance to the Final Four. Wednesday's game will be brodcast live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. The Division II National title game is set for 8 p.m. Friday on ESPN2.