JACKSON, Tenn. — Turnovers and poor shooting had Westminster staring at an early exit from the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. A second-half offensive resurgence helped the Griffins keep their season alive.
Freshman point guard Nicole Yazzie scored eight straight points to key a 24-2 second-half run that lifted Westminster to a decisive 67-55 first-round victory over Lambuth University Wednesday evening.
Yazzie finished with a game-high 23 points to lead the Griffins (27-6) and helped them advance to the second round for a second consecutive season. McKenzie Jessop scored 14 points, while Dani Evans chipped in 13 points and 10 rebounds for Westminster.
After leading by a point at halftime, the Griffins fell behind quickly in the second half when Lambuth (19-10) used a 9-2 run to charge ahead — going up 36-30 on a basket from Kristin Brison.
Westminster still trailed 44-39 when Keisha Catten hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 44-42 with 6:41 left.
Yazzie took over when she drained a 3-pointer to put the Griffins back ahead a possession later. The freshman added a pair of pair of free throws and drilled another long-distance shot over the next minute to push the lead to 50-44 and ignite the lengthy run
When Evans capped the outburst with a pair of free throws, Westminster led 63-46 with 1:34 remaining in the game.
The Griffins struggled out of the gate, missing 14 of their first 20 shots. Turnovers were also an issue. The Eagles forced 19 turnovers and scored 19 points off those miscues.
But Westminster made up for it by shooting 57.7 percent from the field after halftime, while holding Lambuth to 34.3 percent shooting — including a dismal 4-of-27 from three-point range.
The Griffins will play the winner of Point Loma Nazarene and Oklahoma Christian, a late Wednesday game, on Friday at 2:30 p.m.