Spartans Grind Out 67-61 Victory over Wofford to Extend Home Winning Streak to Three
GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG used clutch shooting down the stretch to thwart a late comeback attempt by Wofford Wednesday night, moving to 12-11 on the season and 3-5 in Southern Conference play. Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) paced the Spartans with 17 points, knocking down half of her 14 field goal attempts.
“We focused a lot on having a strong finish,” said head coach Trina Patterson. “Our start wasn’t very crisp. We had nine turnovers in the first quarter but finished the game with 13. I’m really proud of the bounce-back attitude. We talked a lot about three things before this game. One was mental toughness, I thought we showed that especially in the fourth quarter. We also wanted to be “getty-up” players and play with speed and aggressiveness. I thought we did that, which accounts for some of the blocks and steals.”
The victory is the third-consecutive SoCon win inside Fleming Gymnasium for UNCG, the first trio of concurrent conference home wins since the 2010-11 season. The win also marks the latest point in the season the Spartans have been above .500 since 2006-07 and gives UNCG its most league home wins since 2013-14.
The game proved to be a block party, with UNCG rejecting 10 Terrier attempts. The 10 blocks is the most for the Spartans’ since Dec. 19, 2012 against North Carolina Central. Senior guard Bailey Williams (Harrisonburg, Va./Spotswood) contributed half of the rejections, setting a new career-high, while also adding 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“You want players that can fill all of the stat categories,” continued Patterson. “Bailey rebounded, she went to the free throw line, she had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and had five blocks and three steals and played 35 minutes. She showed a lot of poise and leadership. She really wanted it and I thought she showed her mental toughness with her ability to come back the next play each time.”
Things were back and forth early on, with four lead changes and three ties occurring in the first five minutes. However, from there the Spartans struggled to find their shooting touch, going scoreless over the final 5:01 as the Terriers built a 16-9 lead.
Following a Grayson Pinholster layup, Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park) ended the cold drought with a lay in at the 8:24 mark of the second quarter. That basket set the Spartans off on a torrid pace, rattling off nine of the game’s next 11 points to slash the deficit to just two.
Chloe Wanink’s second triple of the game could have taken some of the air out of UNCG’s sails but instead the Spartans turned the heat back up. UNCG held Wofford off of the scoreboard for the final 4:23 of the half and fired off six straight to hit the locker room leading 24-23.
At the break, Soliman and Williams led the Blue and Gold with five points apiece, while India Timpton (Charlotte, N.C./Myers Park) pulled down a game-high seven rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.
The score remained close throughout the third quarter. Wofford out-shot the Spartans 50-percent to 30-percent in the period, but eight offensive rebounds allowed UNCG twice as many shots (20-10). When all was said and done, Maria Corella's jumper gave Wofford a 40-37 advantage going into the final quarter.
The Terriers held the lead early in the fourth but an 8-0 UNCG run over 54 seconds of game-time gave the Spartans a six-point cushion with 7:15 to play.
With 1:40 to go, Wanink hit a three to cut the Spartan lead in half to three but UNCG was not to be denied, converting six-of-seven free throws in the final minute to lock up its third SoCon win of the season.
The Spartans finished with a 41.8 percentage from the field, including 72.7-percent in the fourth quarter. The Terriers, countered with a 38.5 field goal percentage.
UNCG dominated two areas that contributed greatly to the win. The Spartans outscored Wofford 36-18 in the paint and received 16 more points from reserves (26-to-10). Shanese Harris (Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch) led the way off the bench with 11 points, including a 5-of-6 performance from the charity stripe.
The Spartans return to Fleming Gymnasium Saturday for a 4 p.m. SoCon showdown with Furman. UNCG was defeated by the Paladins 65-55 earlier in the season in Greenville, South Carolina.