Columbus State’s season ends with loss in Elite Eight

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The fourth-ranked Columbus State University saw its season come to a close Tuesday with a 78-73 loss to No. 18 Virginia Union in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. The game was played inside Alumni Hall at Ohio Dominican University.

“Hats off to Virginia Union,” head coach Anita Howard said. “They made us go outside of our game. Stuff we usually hit didn’t go in. Passes we usually make, we didn’t catch.

“To be 31-2 now is no small feat and so this game does not define who the Lady Cougars are. This game does not define who these seniors are. This game goes not define our season.”

Columbus State got off to an outstanding start. After Virginia Union scored off the opening tip, the Lady Cougars reeled off nine straight points from Britteny Tatum and Gabby Williams to force an early VUU timeout.

The Panthers immediately pulled back to within two, but CSU never relinquished the lead on its way to a 22-16 lead after the first quarter.

Virginia Union (27-4) split two free throws to start the second quarter and Columbus State responded with seven straight points that opened up a game-high lead of 12 at 29-17.

As was the case all game long, VUU answered back. The Panthers put together 12 unanswered points of their own to tie the game at 29 and eventually took their first lead since the early portion of the game minutes later.

Trailing 40-35 with three minutes until halftime, CSU made its push. The Lady Cougars tied the game at 40 on Ariel Johnson‘s lone make of the game and Kennedy Montgomery connected from outside two possessions later to put CSU back on top.

Narshanda Malone capped off a 7-2 Lady Cougar run with a runner just inside the 3-point line as the buzzer sounded to send the game to the half with Columbus State up 45-42.

Virginia Union tied the game on the opening possession of the third quarter, but would never lead as the Lady Cougars carried a six-point advantage into the fourth.

VUU opened the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run to seesaw back in front, but not for long as the Lady Cougars moved back on top thanks in part to two makes by Ashley Asouzu.

However, Asouzu’s layup with 4:45 to play would be the last points the Lady Cougars would score in the game. Virginia Union closed the game with eight unanswered points as CSU missed its final eight shots.

Tatum led the Lady Cougars with 18 points on the afternoon. Alexis Carter added yet another double-double, going for 17 points and 10 boards. Asouzu finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Columbus State shot 37 percent (27-for-73) for the game and made eight 3-pointers, all in the first half.

The Lady Cougars finish the season at 31-2, matching the program’s single-season record for wins. CSU made it to the Elite Eight for the third time in program history and the first time since 2001.

COURTESY CSU SPORTS INFORMATION

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