March 17, 2010
Jackson, Tenn. - Starr Fairbanks scored 22 points and Holly Hardin added 20 to lead No. 6-ranked and top-seeded Oklahoma City University to a 71-49 victory over eighth-seeded Shorter College in the first round of the 2010 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn.
The Lady Hawks (22-10), one of 16 at-large selections into the field, were making their second-ever appearance in the national tournament, but were simply unable to keep up with the Stars (30-3), who continue on to the Sweet 16 in search of their sixth national championship and first since a run of four straight titles from 1999-2002. Oklahoma City is in the tournament for the 16th time and is making its 13th straight appearance.
Senior Holly Bawden finished with 11 points and seven rebounds and sophomore Kelly Ellison chipped in with 10 points for the Lady Hawks, who managed 44.7 percent shooting against a stingy Oklahoma City defense that came into the game averaging 10 steals per game.
This game was won on the boards and in the paint.
The Stars outscored Shorter 36-26 in the paint and out-rebounded the smaller Lady Hawks 41-34. Oklahoma City's post duo of Fairbanks and Hardin combined to shoot 19-for-35 from the field and snag seven offensive rebounds as the Stars collected 20 offensive boards for the game.
Oklahoma City scored 20 points off of 18 Lady Hawks' turnovers and also tallied 16 second chance points to Shorter's six.
For a young team - Shorter's starting lineup features a pair of freshmen and a sophomore - that was making its first appearance in the national tournament since 2001-02, the Lady Hawks drew first blood against one of the most storied basketball programs in the nation.
Ellison drove hard to the rim for the game's first bucket that put the Lady Hawks up 2-0 just seconds into the contest, but Oklahoma City responded with a 16-0 run capped by a Donica Cosby layup at the 12:47 mark that gave the Stars a 16-2 lead.
Oklahoma City led by as much as 17 in the first half and went into the locker room at halftime leading 39-23.
Shorter senior Whitni Tucker, who along with classmate Tamara Weatherby departs as the program's winningest player with 75 victories in four years, closed out her career with eight points, all of which came in the first half.
Tucker, a three-time Southern States Athletic Conference All-Academic selection who came into the game having made 10 of her last 19 three-point attempts, went 2-for-6 from distance and handed out two assists in her final collegiate contest.
Freshman Shelby Farrer scored eight points and pulled down four rebounds in 30 minutes. Farrer, the SSAC Freshman of the Year, made 3-of-7 from the floor but, along with Bawden, was saddled with early foul trouble in the first half that allowed Fairbanks and Hardin to maneuver more freely early on.
Shorter, one of the nation's top defensive teams who ranks fifth in the NAIA in field goal percentage defense, played relatively well on the defensive end of the floor, holding Oklahoma City to 41.7 percent. The Stars had come into the game ranking No. 6 in the country in field goal percentage, and their result against the Lady Hawks was four percentage points under their season average (45.7).
Regardless of the outcome, this version of the Lady Hawks turned in one of the best seasons in program history. Shorter's 22 wins marked the third straight year that the Lady Hawks have won at least 20 games - the first time in the program's 37-year history that feat has been accomplished.
Shorter last won 22 games in 1999-2000 - ironically enough, that team also finished the year 22-10 - and that win total is the most since the 1978-79 Lady Hawks went 28-5.