SEARCY, AR (Harding)---Concordia-St. Paul's stifling defense limited Harding to 28% shooting from the field as the seventh-seeded Golden Bears shocked second-seeded Harding 68-57 in an NCAA Central Region women's basketball opening round matchup at Rhodes Field House.
The Golden Bears' Carissa Wolyniec led all scorers with 21, while Ameshia Kearney tallied 16 for CSP. Rachel Hansen ended with 15 for the victors.
Arielle Saunders paced Harding with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Daktronics Central Region Player of the Year Kristen Celsor had 11 points and 12 rebounds, but was limited to 4 for 15 shooting from the field. A'ndrea Haney also reached double figures in scoring for the Bisons with 10.
Both teams struggled offensively during a physical opening half. The Golden Bears (26-8), who never trailed in the first twenty minutes, sank only 9 of 33 shots. However, they led 26-22 after Harding (29-3) only managed to connect on 8 of 32 from the floor.
CSP, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament champion, led by as many as eight in the opening stanza when Hansen's jumper gave the Golden Bears a 16-8 edge. Harding pulled within 20-18 with 5:18 left in the half following four consecutive points by Haney, but the Bisons could pull no closer before the break.
Harding drew even for the first time since the game's opening minute at 36-36 with 11:38 left when Shana Holmes connected on a pair of free throws. The Great American Conference regular season champion Bisons grabbed their first lead at 39-38 on Saunders' three-point play just prior to the midway mark of the second half.
Harding pushed the lead to 46-42, but the Golden Bears went ahead for good with an 8-0 run spearheaded by a pair of Kionda Nicks buckets in the paint that reclaimed a 50-46 edge.
The Golden Bears held a 48-43 rebounding advantage, helped by Nicks' team-high 13 boards. Nicks also chipped in six blocked shots for CSP as they ended Harding's 17-game home win streak.
Concordia-St. Paul, which has limited 11 of their last 13 foes to less than 36% shooting from the floor, advances to face Northern State or Central Missouri in Saturday's 7:30 p.m. semifinal. The Golden Bears split a pair of games with Northern State during the regular season, including a 54-36 win in the NSIC Tournament title game. They did not meet Central Missouri during the regular season.