GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG women’s basketball went cold from the floor in final seven minutes of action Thursday evening in Fleming Gymnasium. The Spartans shot just 18-percent in the fourth quarter as they fell 60-53 to the Samford Bulldogs. With the loss, UNCG falls to 11-16 on the season and 5-7 in Southern Conference play. Samford improves to 13-13 and 5-6 in league action.
UNCG had two players score in double figures, led by senior Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) Ajemba scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the loss. Brandi Fier (South Beloit, Ill./Illinois Central) chipped in 10 points; five rebounds and dished out a pair of assists. Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) couldn’t get in a rhythm offensively, but grabbed a season-high eight rebounds.
Bench points played a pivotal role in Thursday’s contest. UNCG limited the Samford starters to just 12 points, but the Bulldogs got 48 points off the bench to help earn the win. Hannah Nichols led the Bulldogs with 16 points off the bench, with Cassidy Williams and Natalie Armstrong each scoring 15 in reserve roles.
“These are the kind of games you have to have.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “You have to win these kinds of games at home. That one was important. I thought we played well for stretches, even when we had some times where we weren’t scoring the ball. We got nine stops in a row in the fourth quarter, but we needed more energy and we needed to make more plays. We played well in spurts, but we didn’t play for the full 40 minutes.”
“We need to play more consistent, especially against a team like that that milks the shot clock and makes you play defense for the full 30 seconds.” Patterson continued, “I thought we weren’t disciplined in how we played defense tonight and that led to 3-pointers at the end of the shot clock or a drive to create a shot. We got a couple good performances tonight. Ije (Ajemba) shot the ball well, Brandi (Fier) got back into double figures. I’m disappointed in our rebounding. We pride ourselves in rebounding and that’s the one thing that we know what we do. weren’t us on the boards tonight and that really hurt us. We have to bounce back, we have a quick turnaround to face Mercer on Saturday.”
Both teams came out hot in the first quarter, scoring a combined 37 points. UNCG went on an early 7-0 run to take an 11-4 lead just 3:55 into the contest after an Ajemba layup. Samford countered with a 6-0 run of its own to cut the lead down to one before UNCG went up five after another Ajemba layup. Nichols tied the game at 17 before Aneka Yelverton (Suffolk, Va./Naval Preparatory Academy) buried a 3-pointer as the quarter expired to give UNCG the 20-17 lead.
The second quarter got rolling with UNCG getting points in the paint from Ajemba and Soliman before Williams and Armstrong brought the game back to a three-point deficit. UNCG extended its lead out to its largest of the game at 29-21 after an Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park) 3-pointer and a Fier transition jumper. Samford answered with Armstrong and Nichols cut the lead down to one before Paige Serup hit a pair of free throws to take the 30-29 lead into halftime.
Both teams played well in the third quarter, as UNCG was able to tie the game at 46. The Spartans came out of the break and took a 38-31 lead after Ajemba hit a pair of free throws with 5:40 remaining. Samford battled back, but Cece Crudup (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs) crossed up the Samford defense to score in transition to keep the lead at seven. Over the final two minutes of play, Samford continued to cut into the lead before scoring five points in the final minute of the quarter to tie the game up at 46 headed into the final quarter.
Samford took a 54-28 lead before UNCG got buckets from Fier and an old-fashioned 3-point play from Crudup cut the Samford lead to 54-53. The defenses locked in after that as each team went scoreless over a span of 5:06 before Williams hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead. The Spartans were unable to hit from the floor over the final 6:27 of the game as Samford’s defense locked in to force four turnovers and limited UNCG to 3-of-17 shooting from the floor in the quarter.
UNCG is back in action this Saturday as it hosts the Mercer Bears at 4 p.m. for its annual Play4Kay game. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and donate to the UNCG women’s basketball Play4Kay fund by clicking here.