Women’s Basketball Closes Strong in 55-47 Road Victory over Samford
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – UNCG started slow but in the end it was the Spartans that made the final push in a rollercoaster ride of a Southern Conference tilt Thursday night at the Pete Hanna Center, earning a 55-47 win over Samford.
After defeating the Bulldogs 64-40 at Fleming Gymnasium earlier in the year, the win gives UNCG its first sweep of a SoCon opponent since 2012-13 and the first-ever sweep of Samford. Additionally, the Spartans are on their first four-game SoCon winning streak since the 2006-07 campaign.
“Our team was very mature tonight handling a lot of adversity,” said head coach Trina Patterson. “It’s really tough winning on the road so I’m really proud. Samford is a really good team. We were losing the entire game and then made a run. What I like about that is our team is starting to embrace challenging games.”
Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokkatam Language School) led all scorers with 15 points on an efficient seven-of-11 shooting. Bailey Williams (Harrisonburg, Va./Spotswood) added 12 points, while Shanese Harris (Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch) also posted 12 points despite playing just 15 minutes.
UNCG busted out the Windex to clean the glass, outrebounding the Bulldogs 35-25, including an 11-2 advantage in offensive boards. The Spartans also forced SU into 19 turnovers, resulting in a 22-8 advantage in points off of turnovers.
Some sloppy and undisciplined play hurt the Spartans early on as UNCG turned the ball over five times in the game’s first five minutes and allowed multiple backdoor cuts for easy Samford layups. The Bulldogs largely controlled the opening 10 minutes but the Spartans started to turn things around in the final minutes, closing the SU advantage to 16-13 at the buzzer.
Samford again started strong in the second, grabbing a 21-15 lead on a Hannah Nichols triple at the 7:31 mark. Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) ensured that that momentum didn’t last long, though, drilling back-to-back shots from behind the arc to knot the score at 21-21.
A quick 5-0 run put SU right back ahead but the Spartans fired right back with a Soliman lay in and a three ball from Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park), sending the two sides into the locker room tied at 26 apiece.
In the third, the two teams traded buckets in the opening minutes before a technical foul was called on the Bulldog bench. Pitchford stepped to the line and converted one-of-two opportunities, putting the Spartans ahead for the first time since the 7:30 mark of the opening quarter. Soliman followed up with a triple and a jumper, completing an 8-0 run and putting UNCG ahead 36-30.
Just when it seemed that the Spartan’s had all the momentum, Samford bounced back with a 7-0 run, capped by a Nichols three at the buzzer to put UNCG down 37-36 going into the final 10 minutes.
The Spartans didn’t let the turn of events get them down, scoring the first seven points of the quarter to go ahead 43-37. SU took the body blow and came back strong finishing off a 6-0 run at the 2:59 mark to tie the game, fouling out then leading Spartan scorer Harris in the process.
UNCG showed that it could take a gut punch too, putting home 10 of the game’s final 12 points to escape Birmingham with a 54-47 victory.
“It was a grind and that was the key,” continued Patterson. “Our defense prevailed in the fourth quarter. That’s one thing we hang our hats on and I thought they did a great job. What we have is a lot of tools in our toolbox. Our zone defense was good tonight.”