TOWSON — In the final minute of the second quarter, it looked like Towson’s season was coming to an end.
The top-seeded Tigers women’s basketball team was trailing by 13 points to No. 4 William & Mary in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals. Its offense had as many points (19) as the Tribe’s leading scorer, guard Sydney Wagner.
But Towson scored five points in the final 30 seconds of the half, including a jumper from Skye Williams at the buzzer to give the Tigers a boost heading into halftime down just eight points. The Tigers carried that confidence into the second half at SECU Arena on Saturday to come back and defeat William & Mary, 76-59, and advance to the CAA final.
“I told Skye, ‘If you don’t hit that bucket, we don’t get that momentum going into the second half,’” Towson coach Laura Harper said. “It gave us life, it gave us hope. We rallied behind her. Skye is our silent assassin. She’s always there exactly when we need her. That bucket was just something that was so big for us, propelling us into the second half.”
Towson (21-10) outscored William & Mary 52-27 in the second half — and 28-11 in the fourth quarter — behind Quinzia Fulmore’s paint presence, India Johnston’s sharp shooting and Kylie Kornegay-Lucas’ all-around dominance. Kornegay-Lucas, a redshirt junior guard, led Towson with 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists — three categories she leads the Tigers in this season. She was 6-for-11 from the floor and made all eight of her free throw attempts.
“Kylie Kornegay-Lucas, remember the name. Know who she is. Know who she is for us,” said Harper, a former star player at Maryland who is in her first season with the Tigers. “When we talk about our team, our toughness, our motivation, Kylie knows what she has to do for us to win games. She just showed up in a way so big that the team was able to follow.”
The 17-point margin of victory is perhaps misleading, as the Tribe led for the vast majority of the game and was within striking distance for much of the fourth quarter. Rebounding was the difference in the second half, with Towson outrebounding William & Mary, 25-11, in the final 20 minutes and 43-28 in the game.
“We talked about it at halftime how defense and rebounding is most important and was going to get us back in the game,” Kornegay-Lucas said.
The win is Towson’s sixth in a row and 10th straight at SECU Arena. The Tigers will play No. 7 Monmouth, a 73-60 winner over No. 3 Northeastern in Saturday’s other semifinal, at 2 p.m. Sunday for the opportunity to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Since joining the conference in 2001-02, Towson’s only CAA title game appearance came in 2019 when the Tigers defeated Drexel for the championship.
“It’s amazing,” Kornegay-Lucas said about advancing to the title game. “We’ve been waiting for this, so we’re ready.”
Both teams entered the contest ranked top five in the conference in scoring, but the first quarter didn’t look like it. Neither team scored in the first couple minutes, with Towson, which defeated William & Mary twice in the regular season, going scoreless for the first 4:13 of the game.
William & Mary, which entered Saturday 12-3 in its last 15 games, led by one after the first quarter, but the Tribe came out firing in the second. Their first run — a 9-0 streak — was ignited by a technical foul from Tigers guard Anissa Rivera after a personal foul, which gave William & Mary four straight free throws and possession.
William & Mary (18-13) later went on an 8-2 run as Wagner took over the game. When the Tribe led 32-19 late in the first half for their largest lead of the game, Wagner had just as many points as Towson.
Wagner, who averaged 15.8 points entering Saturday, didn’t have the same success in the second half, though, as Towson added pressure to limit her. She still scored 11 points to finish the day with 30, but the Tigers held her to 3-for-13 shooting compared to 9-for-13 in the first half. Towson also shut down Riley Casey, the CAA’s second-leading scorer at 18.5 points per game, by holding her to just five points on 0-for-13 shooting.
“All-star performance from Sydney Wagner,” Harper said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be one person who was going to stop her. … We knew if we could contain her, it would give us the chance to get back into the game.
Williams (nine points) and Patricia Anumgba (15 points) opened the second half with 3-pointers to propel Towson on a 10-2 run to cut its deficit to just two points. Fulmore (15 points) ended the quarter with a putback to tie the game at 48 heading into the fourth.
Johnston then nailed a 3-pointer on Towson’s first possession of the final period to give the Tigers their first lead of the contest — one they wouldn’t relinquish. Johnston, a freshman guard who played 13 minutes off the bench, hit another 3 a few minutes later and ended the game with eight points.
“She knows how to play on this stage,” Harper said about Johnston, who was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Delaware. “She’s just a freshman that’s playing with some 21-, 22- and 23-year-olds. I saw how she was today in shootaround. She was locked in, hitting shots. We knew we needed her and she was ready to go.”
Alexia Nelson knocked down a 3-pointer to put Towson up eight with 2:32 remaining and Fulmore sealed the victory with 3-point-play that put the Tigers up 11 in the final two minutes.
No. 1 Towson 76, No. 4 William & Mary 59
TU — Kornegay-Lucas 21, Anumgba 15, Fulmore 15, Williams 9, Johnston 8, Nelson 5, Johnson 3.
W&M — Wagner 30, Bellamy 12, Mikeska 7, Casey 5, Frisby-Smith 3, Beckwith 2.
Halftime: 32-24, W&M.