Redshirt freshman Taylor Mills shot 45 percent from long range and led the Lady Owls with 20 points en route to a 73-43 victory over Southern Poly on Tuesday in an exhibition at the KSU Convocation Center.
“Taylor is probably one of the best point guards that we had here in the 17 years I’ve been here,” Kennesaw State coach Colby Tilley said of the 5-foot-5 native of Knoxville, Tenn. “Not only is she a good long-range shooter, but she knows the game. She gets everybody where they need to be. When things break down, she sets it back up. She makes us go.”
Mills, who played seven games last year before sitting out the remainder of the season and applying for a redshirt, wasted no time helping the Lady Owls take a 12-0 lead on Southern Poly.
Ashley Holliday opened the game with a 3-pointer before Mills hit two straight 3s as part of her 6-for-13 night from beyond the arc. Lisa Capellan then chipped in with a jumper before former Hillgrove High School standout Chelcey Farrar went 1-of-2 from the free-throw line.
Southern Poly didn’t get on the board until the fifth minute of the game, when Dominique Smith nailed a jumper.
The quick start was what the Lady Owls needed to hold off Southern Poly. The Lady Hornets never got within nine points the rest of the way.
Kennesaw State led 43-23 at the break and finished the first half shooting 42 percent (14-for-33) from the field. Southern Poly only shot 21 percent (6-for-28).
“I think (quick starts) are good for our players,” said Tilley, who opens the regular season hosting Wofford on Nov. 11. “Those who were here last year know of the slow starts we got off to. It’s just a huge difference from a confidence standpoint when teams can get out like that.”
Mills, who missed her only shot attempt from inside the arc, also got on a roll midway through the second half with two more long-range shots. Her second came from the left corner and it gave the Lady Owls a 57-27 lead.
Mills wasn’t the only offensive contributor. Sametria Gideon had a double-double for Kennesaw State with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Farrar finished with 10 points and Nicole Adams contributed with seven.
Southern Poly may experience some growing pains this season with 11 newcomers and only two returning players from last year’s team, which finished 29-5 last season, won the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament and reached the NAIA tournament.
Point guard Tara Hay, one of those two returning players, led the Lady Hornets with 19 points and three steals. Dominique Smith was its top newcomer with eight points and eight rebounds.
“It was a good game for us to play a team like Kennesaw State to see where we are and what we need to do,” Southern Poly coach Laquanda Dawkins said. “Now we have to go back to the drawing board and work on a few more things to get better.”
Kennesaw State excelled at being aggressive on defense with its full-court pressure and aggressiveness on the boards. The Lady Owls outrebounded Southern Poly 53-39, with 22 rebounds coming on the offensive side. They also forced 27 turnovers, which helped them to score in transition.