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Ashland, Ohio - The Ferris State University women's basketball squad wasted little time making the most of its first trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament in five years as the Bulldogs bolted out to a quick start and surged past Drury (Mo.) by a 76-54 count on Friday (March 9) afternoon to advance to the regional semifinals.
The Bulldogs, who are seeded second in the eight-team Midwest Regional at Ashland University's Kates Gymnasium, jumped out to a 30-11 edge only seven and a half minutes into the quarterfinal matchup versus the seventh-seeded Panthers and cruised to the win.
FSU led 48-30 at halftime and by as many as 23 points with 17:30 remaining. The Panthers could get no closer than 11 points the rest of the way as FSU avenged a 10-point setback to Drury in its most recent NCAA Tournament game, which came in the Division II Sweet Sixteen in 2007 at Romeoville, Ill.
With the win, the Bulldogs move on to Saturday's (March 10) regional semifinals and will face third-seeded Wisconsin-Parkside at 5 p.m. (ET). The regional championship game is set for Monday (March 12) evening with a berth into the NCAA-II Elite Eight on the line.
"Our kids were very comfortable and very confident and we came out on a mission," said FSU head coach Tracey Dorow. "We moved the ball and got the shots we wanted early and we lit it up. I thought we also did a great job defensively and we made them work hard to get the shots they got.
"Overall, we played extremely well early and found a way to win in the end," she added.
Ferris State took control early with a superb shooting performance in the initial half. The Bulldogs were 18-of-26 (69.2%) from the floor in the first 20 minutes and sank seven three's in the opening stanza to seize the advantage.
Sophomore guard Sarah DeShone (Elkhart, Ind.) and senior guard Tricia Principe (Kalamazoo/Mattawan) sparked the Bulldogs at the outset as DeShone notched 14 of her game-high tying 17 points in the opening period. In addition, 11 of Principe's 17 points came in the first half.
Senior guard Kelsey DeNoyelles (Mt. Pleasant/Sacred Heart) added 17 points as well as the Bulldogs placed three in double-digits to improve to 23-6 overall this season. Drury saw its season come to a close with a 20-8 mark.
FSU also received eight points and six rebounds from sophomore forward Nikki Arner (Ludington) while freshman forward/center Christina Branch (Grand Rapids/West Michigan Lutheran) contributed seven points, seven boards and two blocked shots.
The Bulldogs finished the game shooting 51.9% (27-52) from the floor and sank 12-of-22 (54.5%) three's to go with eight-of-12 (66.7%) free throws. FSU also owned a decisive 33-24 rebounding advantage and had nine offensive boards to five for the Panthers.
Drury played without starting guard Katie Pritchard due to illness and struggled to keep pace offensively against the Bulldogs' strong defensive effort. Leading scorer and first team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) honoree Bethanie Funderburk paced the Panthers with 15 points while Lauren McCurry added 14 points in a reserve role with all coming in the second half.
Ferris State had 13 turnovers to only 12 for the Panthers, but FSU still held a 16-13 edge in points off those miscues. The Bulldogs also had four steals and three blocked shots to five steals and a single block for Drury.
DeShone keyed the Bulldog offense with a game-high eight assists, which represented half of the Bulldogs' total of 16 on the day. DU finished with 14 assists in the contest.
The Panthers did hold a 30-8 margin in bench scoring although the Bulldogs played all 12 available players with no one playing more than 29 minutes.
Drury never led after an early 5-4 edge as FSU improved to 3-2 all-time against the Panthers and evened its NCAA Tournament mark to 3-3 in four appearances in the big dance.
Ferris State will face Wisconsin-Parkside in Saturday's regional semifinals for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign. The Rangers beat GLVC rival Indianapolis in Friday's first quarterfinal to reach the round of 32 by a 73-66 count and are 23-5 overall this season.
Saturday's game will be aired live on Sunny 97.3 FM & the Bulldog Sports Network starting with the Meijer Pregame Show at 4:30 p.m. (ET). The broadcast is also accessible online at www.FerrisStateBulldogs.com.