TAMPA – Tyler Hardy knew there was no way of downplaying the significance of this game.
“This game is big,” Hardy said. “It’ll probably be the deciding factor whether we have to play into the (postseason) tournament or have the rest, so it’s a big one. “
Barry University women’s basketball team plays at Tampa 2 p.m. Saturday. The Buccaneers (13-10, 4-9 Sunshine State Conference) beat the Spartans (15-8, 5-8) in the earlier meeting when Tampa was ranked 25th in the nation. Currently in seventh place, Tampa occupies the spot ahead of Barry in the league standings. The eighth and ninth place teams will have to play each other in the first round of the league postseason tournament Mar. 6 in Kissimmee.
The Buccaneers beat the Spartans, 64-60, in overtime in Miami Shores. The Bucs overcame a nine-point deficit with 7:31 to play in the second half to force overtime. Hardy, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in the first meeting, hit two free throws with 32 seconds left in overtime to give Barry a six-point lead. The Bucs held on for the upset win.
“We all know Tampa wants to get back at us,” Hardy said. “I think we all would agree we need to match their energy. If we can start with energy and maintain it, we’ll be fine.”
Barry is coming off a 77-54 win over Palm Beach Atlantic Wednesday. The Bucs have held their last four opponents to 58 points or less. The Buccaneers are 2-2 in that stretch.
Tampa had four players who scored in double figures in the first game. Illysa Vivo had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Sadie Oyer scored 14, Moriah Hodge 12 and Catherine Matthews 11.
“It’s going to be a big game for our post players,” Hardy said. “We need to play some post defense. They’ve got some shooters, so we’ll have to hold our own.”
In the first meeting, the two teams battled to six ties and seven lead changes. Tampa led by as many as 11 early in the second half. Barry’s largest lead came in overtime when Hardy sank the two free throws to put the Bucs up six.
“I think we play well when we play with composure,” Hardy said. “If we can play our game, and don’t let them get us out of our comfort zone, we should be fine.”