AUM women earn 19th NAIA Hoops Championship Bid

KANSAS CITY, Mo. ( — For the 19th time in the program’s history and for the first time since the 2008-09 season, the Auburn Montgomery women’s basketball team qualified for the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, the team learned Wednesday when the national office announced the tournament field and bracket.
The 36th-annual event will be held at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Mo., for the second-straight season from March 16-22.

The Warhawks (23-9) punched their ticket by earning the 15th of 16 at-large bids. AUM will open play Thursday, March 17, at 10:45 a.m., when it takes on the No. 2 seed in the Liston Bracket, Vanguard (Calif.) University. The Lions enter the tournament ranked sixth in the final NAIA Coaches’ Top 25, which was also released today. The Warhawks were third among the others receiving votes. The meeting will be the first between the two schools.

The field consisted of 14 automatic berths, 17 at-large selections and championship host William Woods (Mo.). Automatic qualification was given to conference regular-season champions, tournament champions or tournament runners-up depending on the league. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches’ Top 25 poll.

The Warhawks, winners of seven of their last nine games, have been led by Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Year and national Player of the Year candidate, senior Jatoria Carter. Carter enters the tournament first nationally in steals (122), second in scoring (667), points per game (20.84) and steals per game (3.81), sixth in assists (162) and ninth in assists per game (5.06). She also ranked in the top-50 in the nation in field goal percentage (46th, .410).

Fellow senior Reggotta Craig has also played a key role in the success of the team, contributing 16.9 points per game and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game. Craig finished the regular season third in the nation with 14 double-doubles, and ranked in the top-10 nationally in free throw percentage, total rebounds, rebounds per game, defensive rebounds per game and points.

Junior shooting guard Kaylan Withrow has provided an addition variable to the Warhawks’ offense, scoring 12.2 points per game, while leading the NAIA with 107 made 3-pointers. Her 3.3 made treys per game ranks second in the nation.

As a team, AUM averaged 67.0 points per game, while allowing just 58.4 per contest, a mark which ranks 17th nationally. The Warhawks have converted 39.3 percent of their shots from the floor, including 31.9 percent from distance. AUM is also among the nation’s leaders in free throw percentage at 70.7 percent.

Vanguard, which is located in Costa Mesa, Calif., enters the tournament with a 24-6 record and is making its 15th consecutive national tournament appearance. Led by four-time NAIA Coach of the Year Russ Davis, the Lions were the first at-large team selected to the field.

Samantha Doucette leads the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game, while Melissa Norman contributes 14.0 points per contest. Norman also leads the NAIA in rebounds per game at 11.97 per game, offensive rebounds per game (4.86), total rebounds (347) and double-doubles (21). She is 13th nationally in blocks per game at 1.7 per contest.

The Lions average 68.3 points per game and allow 57.1 per contest. Vanguard has made 38.6 percent of its shots from the field, despite hitting only 29.2 percent from behind the arc. The Lions lead the nation in offensive rebounds and rebounding margin.