Transylvania women advance to HCAC Championship with win over Bluffton in semis

Rachel Cox blocks a shot

Terre Haute Ind. – The Transylvania women's basketball team made use of a stifling defensive-performance to defeat the Bluffton University Beavers 57-42 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference semifinals at Hulbert Arena on Friday night.

The win sets up a rematch of last year's title game with Rose-Hulman on Saturday night. With Friday's semifinal win, the Pioneers advance to the HCAC Tournament Championship title game for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

Senior forward Rachel Cox turned in a dominant performance composed of 16 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks, and three assists in 32 minutes of action. 

Sophomore guard Shelby Boyle and junior guard Celia Kline each registered double-figures, scoring 12 and 10 points respectively.

The game got off to a slow offensive start, with Transylvania holding a 15-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Pioneers took control of the game in the second quarter as the team honed in defensively, holding the Beavers scoreless over the entirety of the quarter and pushing the lead to 24-8 at the half. Tuesday night's game marked the first time since NCAA women's basketball transitioned to quarters in the 2015-16 season in which the Pioneers held an opponent scoreless within the span of a 10-minute quarter.   

Six of Transylvania's seven blocked shots came in the first half, with Cox providing four.

Transylvania continued to roll throughout the third quarter, pushing the lead to 38-19 thanks to seven points from Boyle on 3-of-4 shooting from the field.

Bluffton showed some offensive pushback early in the fourth quarter, but the Pioneers would not be denied as they cruised to the eventual 57-42 victory.

The Pioneers moved to 21-5 overall, and 16-3 against HCAC opponents. The Pioneers swept the season series with Bluffton, winning all three meetings.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Pioneers, who now move on to face the No. 1 seed Rose-Hulman Fightin' Engineers in the HCAC championship game tomorrow night. The winner of tomorrow's championship game will be awarded the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament. Both teams squared off in the 2017 tournament championship, with Rose-Hulman winning 50-40.

Transylvania last won a conference tournament championship in 2014, prevailing 110-70 over Hanover.

The game is set for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off at Hulbert Arena.

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