GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNC Greensboro trailed by as many as 11 points in the third quarter as sophomore forward Aja Boyd completed the comeback after she hit the game winner with 2.3 seconds to lift the Spartans (7-11, 1-2 Southern Conference) to a 55-54 win over Samford (5-12, 0-2 SoCon) Thursday night in Fleming Gymnasium for the SoCon home opener in front of a crowd of 569.
“We really focused on this week staying positive, next play and tonight it showed,” head coach Trina Patterson said. “The communication was great, the energy was even awesome, better than we’ve seen it. The effort, energy and communication. Those are the three things that we’ve been working on.
The Bulldogs recorded an 11-point lead, 45-34, with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter, but the Spartans chipped away at the lead by scoring the final five points of the quarter to cut the lead to six points, 45-39, after the third quarter.
A Samford layup gave the Bulldogs an eight-point lead, 47-39, with 9:45 left in the fourth quarter, but the Spartans scored seven of the next nine points to cut the lead to three points, 49-46, with 6:52 left. A Bulldogs layup gave Samford a five-point lead, 51-46, with 6:32 left in the game.
That score remained the same until junior guard Nadine Soliman scored on a layup and a free throw on a three-point play to cut the lead to two points, 51-49, with 2:06 remaining in the game. Samford scored on a layup to increase the lead to four points, 53-49, with 1:30 left. A junior guard Alexis Pitchford layup and a Soliman layup tied the game at 53 with 16 seconds left.
After back-to-back Spartan fouls, Samford head to the free throw line for two shots. The Bulldogs made the first one, but missed the second shot and junior forward Te’ja Twitty grabbed the rebound and the Spartans called timeout with 10 seconds left. Soliman dribbled the ball at the top before driving into the lane and found Boyd under the basket and Boyd scored the final shot with 2.3 seconds for the first Spartan lead since 27-26 with 8:08 left in the third quarter.
“We ran the same play, but I knew that they were going to make an adjustment on me and try to guard me,” Soliman said. “I knew that I would have to drag two or three defenders and I was looking to make a good assist, which Aja was looking at me the whole time, so I was able to find her and she was able to put herself under the basket to make the basket.”
The Spartans were led by Boyd with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the floor and added six rebounds, while Soliman led the team with 11 rebounds and added 13 points for a double-double and recorded three assists.
Twitty recorded nine points and five rebounds and needs six rebounds to enter the top-10 in school history, while Pitchford added eight points, three assists and two rebounds and sophomore guard Cece Crudup recorded six points and four rebounds.
The Spartans recorded seven of the first 11 points of the game to take a three-point lead, 7-4, with 7:22 remaining in the opening quarter, but Samford scored the next seven points to take a four-point lead, 11-7, with 1:53 left. The Spartans scored four of the final five points to cut the lead to a point, 12-11, after the first quarter.
UNCG scored six of the first eight points of the second quarter to take a three-point lead, 17-14, with 6:57 remaining in the quarter, but the Bulldogs scored nine of the final 13 points to take a halftime lead of two points, 23-21.
The Spartans scored the first four points of the third quarter to take a two-point lead, 25-23, with 8:44 remaining in the quarter, but Samford scored 12 of the next 21 points to take a game-high 11-point lead, 45-34 with 2:05 left.
Then the Spartans chipped away at the lead and took the lead after scoring the final basket with 2.3 seconds.
UNCG increase its shooting percentage every quarter. The Spartans shot 41.7 percent from the field in the first quarter, then 44.4 percent in the second quarter, followed by 53.3 percent in the third quarter and 63.6 percent in the final quarter for a 51.1 shooting percent in the game.
“This is the second time that we’ve increased offensively every quarter,” Patterson said. “We got better and that’s something that we haven’t seen very often.
“I was happy with Aja’s performance. This was another great game for her. Single digits for the fourth quarter for this team is a pretty good defensive stand.”
The Spartans continue the three game homestand with Mercer Saturday at 4 p.m. in Fleming Gymnasium.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day All-Sport Clinic
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