GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG scored the first points of the game and never trailed leading for 38:27 of the 40-minute contest with the ETSU Buccaneers Thursday evening. The contest featured two ties before UNCG took the lead for good with 3:11 remaining in the first half as UNCG defeated the ETSU Buccaneers, 65-61 in Fleming Gymnasium. Three Spartans scored in double figures led by Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) and Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) as each scored 17 points.
With the win, UNCG improved to 10-13 and 4-4 in Southern Conference play. ETSU falls to 13-10 and 6-2 in league action. The Spartan defense showed up early as they limited ETSU to shooting just 24-percent in the first 20 minutes. Overall, ETSU shot 38-percent from the floor and were just 3-of-24 from 3-point land.
“This was a total team effort and a great defensive effort.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “We shared the ball well and had equal shot distribution through the team. The main thing we talked about would be withstanding the ETSU runs. They’re (ETSU) a talented team and we knew eventually they would make those runs and we were able to handle those and answer.”
“We did a much better job of rebounding in the second half.” Patterson continued, “We gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and we were able to cut that down over the last 20 minutes. I’m proud of the effort we had to get those rebounds at crucial points. I’m really proud of how we took care of the ball tonight. It was much better than it was last time we played ETSU. In the month since that time, there have been some improvements with our team in taking care of the ball. That’s been a focal point in practice and its good to see that growth through the season.”
Ajemba extended her school record with her 12th double-double of the season as she grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her 17 points. From the floor, Ajemba went 6-of-10 and hit five free throws in the win. Soliman was 4-of-10 from the floor and carried over her hot 3-point shooting from last week, hitting 3-of-5 from distance.
Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) added 13 points, shooting 4-of-8 and hit a pair of 3-pointers. Willey grabbed three rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked a shot in the victory. Te’ja Twitty (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) filled out the stat sheet as she grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, chipped in six points, three assists and added two steals and a blocked shot on the defensive end. Brandi Fier (South Beloit, Ill./Illinois Central) added six points and dished out a game-high eight assists in the contest.
Fier got the Spartans on the board first, hitting a jumper on UNCG’s first possession of the game. ETSU countered with a fast break bucket, but Ajemba drew a foul and finished under the hoop to put UNCG up 5-2 early. ETSU tied the game at 9-9 after a Ananjae Stephney layup, but closed the quarter out by outscoring ETSU 6-3. Soliman and Ajemba each made a pair of free throws with freshman Cece Crudup (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs) adding a transition basket to end the first quarter.
UNCG extended its lead to its largest of the night in the second quarter. The Spartans opened the second quarter on a 12-3 run with Willey hitting 3-pointers on back-to-back possession to take a 27-17 lead with 4:34 remaining in the first half. After an Alyjah Sherer jumper, Twitty hit layups on back-to-back possession to give the Spartans their largest lead of the night at 31-19. After ETSU hit a pair of layups, Willey scored in the paint with 0:28 remaining to give UNCG the 33-23 lead headed into halftime.
The third quarter saw each team scored their highest total in a quarter. The Bucs shot 64-percent in the quarter, but UNCG was able to counter those possessions by hitting seven shots from the field including a pair of 3-pointers. ETSU went on an 8-0 run to cut UNCG’s lead down to 45-41, but Willey was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three to extend the lead back out to seven. UNCG scored on back-to-back possessions with 0:28 remaining in the quarter with Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park) hitting a layup as time expired to extend UNCG’s lead to 52-43.
ETSU wasn’t done yet as the Bucs continued to mount a comeback attempt. ETSU went on an 8-1 run to cut UNCG’s lead down to 62-59 with 1:11 remaining. Soliman hit a pair of free throws with 0:31 remaining to extend the lead back to five. Sherer countered with a layup of her own with 0:16 remaining to cut it back to 64-61. The Spartans were able to inbound and Fier was fouled, hitting 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 0:11 remaining to extend the lead back to four. After an ETSU timeout, the Spartan defense forced a tough 3-point attempt from Sherer as time was running down and Ajemba grabbed her 10th rebound of the night to preserve the win.
UNCG returns to the court Saturday evening as it hosts the Chattanooga Mocs at 4 in Fleming Gymnasium.