COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Stetson women's basketball team closed out its most successful season in school history Saturday, falling 66-49 to 11th-ranked UCLA in the First Round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at St. John Arena.
In her final collegiate game, Victoria McGowan led the the Hatters (24-9) with 14 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. She moved into second all-time in school history in scoring, finishing her three-year career with 1532 points scored.
“Victoria's got a lot of heart," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "She's a big time player. She really carried us in the first half. She can rebound and she can score. It’s amazing that the littlest person comes up with the rebound, I still don’t get that, but she does.”
The 14th-seeded Hatters knew coming into the game that they were going to have to knock down some outside shots to have a chance at upsetting the third-seeded Bruins. Unfortunately Stetson got off to slow start, hitting just three of their first 14 field goal attempts, and trailed 26-7 at the 10-minute mark.
“I think the first 10 minutes killed us," Bria said. "We had some shots but we didn’t put them in. If you put some of those baskets in, the game is a lot closer. Overall, in the second half we played a lot better, a lot tougher. I am proud of our kids. I thought we fought. It wasn’t an effort problem and it wasn’t an execution problem. We just didn’t make the shots.”
Stetson matched UCLA point-for-point and then some over the final 30 minutes, outscoring the Bruins 32-30. Stetson made a small push right before the half, cutting a 22-point deficit down to 16 at the intermission.
The Bruins continued to use their height advantage in the second half, pounding the ball inside and extending the lead to 24 with 11:52 to play.
However, the Hatters continued to battle, cutting the deficit to 18 on a three-pointer by Jama Sharp at the 8:44 mark and then to 16 on an offensive rebound and putback by Sasha Sims with 5:37 to play.
"It is hard to stop [UCLA]," Bria said. "Our whole goal was to pack in the paint. We were going to try and make them hit outside shots. I thought our zone was very effective against them. They’re also extremely hard to score against because of their size and their mobility.”
Sims finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, as the Hatters only trailed the rebounding battle 47-43.
Stetson finished the season with the most wins (24) and conference wins (14) in school history, produced the longest winning streak in school history (11), won its fourth A-Sun title and played in its third NCAA Tournament.
“To be back on a national stage and to play against some of the best players in the country does a lot for our program," Bria said. "Our university is an outstanding university and it’s a great place but not a lot of people have heard about us. Now, I think they’re hearing about us more.”