Freshmen Mangela Ngandjui and Nadine Soliman celebrate after the Spartans' first win in the SoCon Tournament since 2013.
Freshmen Mangela Ngandjui and Nadine Soliman celebrate after the Spartans' first win in the SoCon Tournament since 2013.
Courtesy: Photo Courtesy of the Southern Conference

Women’s Basketball Advances In SoCon Tournament With 68-63 Win Over Furman 03-02-2017

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Head coach Trina Patterson and the fourth-seeded UNCG women’s basketball team didn’t want their season to end Thursday as the Spartans rallied from a 17-point first quarter deficit and downed fifth-seeded Furman 68-63 in the quarterfinal round of the Southern Conference Tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville. The victory improves the Spartans to 17-13 on the season, the most wins for UNCG since winning 20 games in 2006-07.

The victory is the first for the Spartans in the SoCon Tournament since 2013 and it marks the first time that UNCG has advanced to the SoCon Tournament semifinals since 2006. The Spartans continue their SoCon quest Friday morning as they play top-seeded and SoCon regular season champion Chattanooga at 11 a.m.

Freshman forward Mangela Ngandjui (Upper Marlboro, Md./Riverdale Baptist) picked the prime time to turn in a career-best performance, posting her first career double-double to lead the Spartans to the win. Ngandjui scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, surpassing her previous career-highs of six points and seven rebounds in the first half. She connected on 8-of-14 from the field and hit 3-of-4 from the free throw line in a career-high 29 minutes off the bench.

Senior guard Bailey Williams (Harrisonburg, Va./Spotswood) had a strong all-round game in the victory, scoring 16 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists, without committing a turnover in 38 minutes of play. Williams connected on 6-of-14 from the field and hit two clutch free throws with 4.1 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Freshman forward Te'Ja Twitty (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) posted her eighth career double-double in the win and her fourth straight double-dip. Twitty sored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds as UNCG dominated the glass with a 42-29 advantage. The Spartans’ play on the boards helped them overcome a 38.5 (25-of-65) field goal percentage and just a 13.3 (2-of-15) shooting night from 3-point land.

Furman (14-17) saw its season come to an end after committing 19 turnovers against the Spartans. The Paladins connected on just 42.6 percent (23-of-54) from the field and only 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from 3-point land. Furman was dominated in the paint as UNCG out-scored the Paladins 38-25, including a 19-4 advantage on second-chance points with 17 offensive rebounds for the Spartans. Cierra Carter led Furman with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Le’Jzae Davidson added 13 points.

Furman start the game quickly, scoring the first seven points, including five straight from Cierra Carter to force the Spartans into an early timeout. UNCG came right back and scored seven straight, capping on a 3-pointer from Williams to tie the game at 7-7. The Paladins kept coming and posted a 23-6 run to take a 30-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. Furman connected on 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from the field and hit 66.7 percent (4-of-6) from distance in the first 10 minutes of the game.

The Spartans came out of the break and scored the first six points to force Furman into an early timeout. UNCG used its pressure defense to turn the tide as Furman committed seven turnovers in the second quarter. The Spartans posted a 17-6 run to narrow the gap to 36-33. Ngandjui was the offensive spark for the Spartans, scoring a career-high 14 points in the first half off the bench in just 13 minutes.

Ngandjui entered the game with a previous career-high of six points, connected on 6-of-8 from the field and hit 2-of-2 from the free throw line while grabbing six rebounds. The Spartans went into the locker room at halftime trailing just 40-35 as they out-scored Furman 19-10 in the second quarter. UNCG connected on 8-of-16 (50%) from the field in the second quarter while Furman fell to just 36.4 percent (4-of-11) shooting from the field.

The Spartans continued their strong play in the third quarter, recording on a 17-2 run to take a 59-53 lead and force Furman into a timeout. Williams ignited the run by hitting a 3-pointer before freshman guard Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park) got a steal on the press in the open court and laid the ball in on the fast break to give UNCG the lead at 53-51.

Williams would extend the Spartans lead to six at 59-53 early in the fourth quarter as Williams scored off a drive. Furman came right back and scored seven straight to take a 60-59 lead as Stephania Oramas converted a 3-point play and DeAnneisha Jackson scored on the fast break.

After the game was tied at 62-62, Twitty gave UNCG the lead back for good with 2:04 remaining as she scored off a feed from Williams. The Spartans’ defense stepped up and stopped the Paladins twice before Pitchford calmly hit a pair of free throws with 20.3 seconds remaining to run the UNCG lead to 66-63. Furman had a look at a game-tying 3-pointer by Carter but it was off the mark and Williams corralled the rebound. She was quickly fouled by sealed the win with two free throws with 4.1 seconds remaining.

-- UNCG --

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