CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Sophomore Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) scored a career-best 33 points in an 88-67 win over the Western Carolina Catamounts Saturday afternoon in the Ramsey Center. Soliman shot 13-of-16 from the field and was a perfect 7-of-7 from 3-point range. Her perfect performance from 3-point land ties a school record for 3-point percentage in a game, and her seven total 3-pointers ties a school record which she already held along with Micky Haywood. Haywood set the record in 1993. Soliman has tied the record in each of her first two seasons.
With the win, UNCG improves to 9-13 overall and 3-4 in the Southern Conference. Western Carolina falls to 4-18 overall and 0-7 in SoCon play. The 88 points scored by the Spartans are the most against a Division I opponent this season and the most against a SoCon opponent in the Trina Patterson era. Saturday’s win was the first for UNCG women’s basketball in Cullowhee since the 2010-11 season.
“I thought we played a really good all-around game.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “Especially because coming into today, Western Carolina was one of the top defensive teams in our conference. I thought we would struggle a little offensively, but the flow of the game was to our benefit and we shared the ball really well. We committed just nine turnovers and had 15 assists, so we did a good job of taking care of the ball. We had good shooting and it was a great team effort.”
“We’re used to seeing Nadine (Soliman) playing at that aggressive level.” Patterson continued, “Her 3-point shooting is better than it was last year, she just hasn’t been able to show it yet. In conference play, her numbers are up and today she really played well. She’s very difficult to guard when she can knock down the 3-ball and drive to the basket. I thought Te’ja (Twitty) was super-aggressive, really sharp and very efficient offensively. Getting our first SoCon road win out of the way takes a little off of our back. We played everyone competitively in the first half of the SoCon schedule, we’re looking forward to the second half of the conference season.”
As a team, the Spartans shot 52-percent from the field, a new high against Division I opponents since Patterson took over. UNCG hit 10 3-pointers, a new season-high and the second-most in a game in the Patterson era. Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) and Cece Crudup (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs) each hit 3-pointers to help the Spartans set a new season high.
Te’ja Twitty (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) added 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the victory, shooting 70-percent from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from the free throw line. Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) led the Spartans on the boards, grabbing 10 and chipped in eight points.
Brandi Fier (South Beloit, Ill./Illinois Central) added 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and dished out four assists. Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park) added four assists, four points and four rebounds.
The Spartans were in control for much of the game, leading for 35:22 of the 40 minutes of game action. Western Carolina got the scoring started, going up 4-0 after Nikki Johnson and Tembre Moates each hit a jumper. Willey responded by hitting a pair of 3-pointers before Soliman knocked down another to take an early lead. Soliman hit a jumper in the paint to go up 11-9 with 4:38 left in the first quarter and UNCG would not trail for the remainder of the contest. UNCG ran its lead out to seven on a Soliman layup, but a Julia Brown 3-pointer trimmed the lead to 19-15. Fier hit a jumper before Brown went 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 0:13 left in the quarter as UNCG took a 21-16 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
The Catamounts came out quick in the second quarter, erasing the five-point deficit in just over a minute after a Lauren LaPlant 3-pointer tied the game at 21. Soliman responded by hitting 3-pointers on the next two possessions and Twitty finished in the paint to extend the Spartan lead out to 29-21. Back-to-back possessions led to layups from Twitty and Fier gave UNCG a 44-31 lead with 1:43 remaining before Johnson finished an old-fashioned 3-point play to cut the lead to 46-36 at halftime.
Western Carolina came out quick again, going on a 5-0 run to cut the lead down to six. UNCG responded by going on a 16-2 run to extend its lead to 63-43 with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter. Fier had four points and Soliman added seven with a 3-pointer and a transition layup in the run. WCU cut the lead back to 15 but Fier hit a jumper with 0:32 left to extend the lead back to 17 at the end of the period.
UNCG held the Catamounts at bay for the remaining 10 minutes, not allowing WCU to get closer than 17 points. A Tess Harris jumper cut the lead to 67-50, but Western Carolina could not slow the Spartan offense as UNCG shot 50-percent from the field in the final quarter, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
The Spartans are back in action next Thursday, Feb. 1st as they will host the ETSU Bucs at 5:30 p.m. in Fleming Gymnasium.