While the eyes of many women's college basketball fans are riveted on the Division I "big dogs" whose conference tournaments are just getting underway this week, there is history being made in other NCAA divisions, where conference play has wrapped up and NCAA Tournament bids have already been announced.
What kind of history, you might ask? Well, how often do you hear of a player scoring 63 points in a single game at any level of the sport?
But sometimes, players get a feeling, where it seems like they can’t miss. And that was the case for Thomas More University sophomore forward/guard Sydney Moss, as she led her top-seeded team to a 106-88 victory over fifth-seeded Waynesburg University in the semifinals of the Presidents' Athletic Conference Tournament last Friday night.
Yet the former Florida Gators transfer started out thinking it was going to be a long night after missing the first several shots that she took. After that, however, things started to go Moss' way.
“Actually, I missed my first four shots,” said Moss. “They were way off, too. And I thought it was going to be a rough night. Then, I got a steal, and passed it to my point guard Devin Beasley for a lay up. That’s when I knew things were going to change for me. I went off from there. My teammates helped me a lot, and they looked for me, even when I wasn’t open. They would work the ball around to get me open.”
Once that happened, Moss would go off, as she put it, for 63 points in the game. She went 24 of 42 from the field, including 14 of 16 from the free throw line. She also led her team with nine rebounds and six steals in 35 minutes.
Moss's 63 points were the most points ever scored in a Division III game, surpassing the previous record by two points.
Moss broke the record held by Oberlin's Ann Gilbert with 18 seconds left in the game. Gilbert previously had the record since February 1991 when she scored 61 points against Allegheny.
“I just kept giving her the ball,” said Thomas More head coach Jeff Hans. “She had the advantage inside – more than normally it seemed like in that game. Our players recognized she was doing well, and she kept finishing and making plays.
“She knows when it’s her game. That’s the type of player she is. She wants her team to be successful, but if she has to take the game over, then that’s what she’ll do.”
Moss was shocked when she heard the 63 points were a national record.
“I never thought it would be a national record,” said Moss. “When it was announced that I had just broken the record, my teammates high-fived with me, and I was in shock. It shocked me a little bit, and I never thought it would be a record. I was just in a groove in that game.”
Yet Moss is far less concerned with the newfound celebrity surrounding her scoring record than she is with keeping up her average and helping her team to succeed.
“Honestly, I am not concerned about that,” said Moss. “I hope that I can keep up my average (26.8 points per game). Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me, as long as my team wins. I would be happy if I just scored one or two points and we got the win. I am more interested in the team winning than any individual accolades.”
Moss is well on the way to success in her goal of helping her team to keep winning. Thomas More moved on to Saturday's title game, where they cemented their eighth-consecutive conference championship with an 80-58 victory over third-seeded Washington & Jefferson.
Moss' stratospheric scoring had by then "cooled" to a "mere" 29 points in the tournament finale, but no matter: She found other ways to contribute, finishing just three dimes shy of a triple-double by adding 11 rebounds and seven assists to the day's tally.
Unsurprisingly, Moss was named PAC Conference Player of the Year and Hans took home conference Coach of the Year honors. By Monday of this week, Thomas More was standing in the No. 1 spot in the Division III national Top 25, and of course, with the conference title, came the automatic NCAA Division III Tournament bid (not that a team with this kind of firepower and a 28-0 record was likely to be denied an at-large invitation). Thomas More will host the first two rounds of that tournament this weekend in its home gym, 1,200-seat Connor Convocation Center in Crestville, Ky., tipping off in Round One against two-time Great South Athletic Conference Champion Salem (21-4) at 7 p.m. EST on Friday. The winner moves on to face the victor of Friday's other opening round contest between Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference champ Texas Lutheran (23-5) and John Carroll (21-4), an at-large invitee out of the Ohio Athletic Conference.
Moss came to Thomas More, because she wanted to be closer to home and be happy once again. According to Hans, she was not happy at Florida.
“A lot of kids her caliber would never attempt to do this,” said Hans. “But she didn’t like Division I, and she wanted to come here and be closer to home. She also likes our small classes, and the big thing is that she didn’t want to sit out the year. She also wanted to be in Northern Kentucky, so there’s no Division II schools here anymore. So, for her to come back home and not have to sit out the year, she only had the option to come to a Division III school at Thomas More. We were fortunate enough to get her. It’s truly a blessing to have her here.”
Note: This Sydney Moss is from the game on Friday night when Moss was going up for a lay up, according to Thomas More SID Corey Blackson.
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