NORFOLK, Va. – UNCG women’s basketball suffered a tough 64-63 loss to Norfolk State Friday night at Joseph G. Echols Memorial Hall. UNCG came back from down 15 in the first half, but Norfolk State hit a go-ahead jumper with 0:04 remaining to hand UNCG’s its seventh loss of the season. The Blue and Gold fall to 4-7on the season, while Norfolk State improves to 4-5.
“I was really proud of our second half performance tonight.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “In these close games, its coming down to one possession. Tonight it came down to a defensive possession at the end. We’re still young and learning and these are learning experiences that will pay off during the SoCon schedule. The conference portion is the most important part of the season, these nonconference games give us experience and helps us figure out how we cane be better.”
“Cece Crudup played very well off the bench tonight.” Patterson continued, “She played some very solid, aggressive minutes. We had three players in double figures; we haven’t seen that in a while. Our defense was pretty good in the second half but we need to do a better job with our free throws. We have been competitive on the road, but we have to get that W.”
Three UNCG players scored in double figures led by. Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School). Soliman finished with 18 points and was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line. Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) added 16 points, going 5-of-10 from the field and knocking down all four of her free throws.
Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) tied career-best 15 points and hauled down 11 rebounds. 12 of her 15 came in the first half as she hit 6-of-8 from the field. UNCG shot 38-percent from the field and went to the free throw line a season-high 29 times, sinking 22 freebies.
The Blue and Gold was aggressive in the first quarter, drawing six NSU fouls. UNCG took advantage by hitting 7-of-9 from the charity, The Blue and Gold offense hit six-straight free throws to tie the game up at 10 with 2:12 remaining in the opening quarter. NSU’s Kayla Roberts hit a three-pointer to go up 14-12 with a little over a minute remaining before Ajemba hit UNCG’s seventh free throw to cut the lead to 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
NSU started the second quarter on a 16-2 run to take the lead at 30-15 after a Raven Russell free throw. Ajemba got UNCG going, hitting a jumper before Soliman hit from distance to trim the lead to 35-23. UNCG and NSU traded points over the final 1:25 as the Blue and Gold went into halftime trailing 37-25.
UNCG responded in the third quarter, opening the frame up on a 12-2 run to trim the lead down to 42-37. Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park) hit a layup with 5:46 remaining in the quarter to bring UNCG within 5. The Blue and Gold continued its climb after Willey scored five-straight points to cut the lead down to 47-46, hitting a three-pointer and two free throws. Soliman tied and took the lead with 0:25 left in the quarter after hitting both free throws and Pitchford hit another from the charity stripe to give UNCG its first lead since 1:20 left in the first quarter.
The fourth quarter was a battle as the lead changed hands seven times and saw two ties in the final 10 minutes of play. UNCG extended its lead to three early after Soliman hit both free throws at the 8:30 mark. NSU took a one-point lead before Soliman again hit a pair of free throws to go back up 53-52.
NSU took another three-point lead after Armani Franklin hit a layup with 2:05 remaining. Soliman worked fast in transition, hitting a layup just six seconds later and drawing the foul. She hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play to tie it at 60 with 1:59 remaining.
What had kept UNCG in the game for the first 38 minutes came up short in the final 120 seconds. UNCG missed three free throws with less than 2:00 remaining in the game but still had a chance to win. Willey gave the Blue and Gold a 63-62 lead after hitting a layup with 0:20 on the clock forcing NSU to call its final timeout.
Norfolk State advanced the ball to half court and Alexys Long found Khadedra Croker who knocked down just her second field goal of the night with 0:04 left to take the lead. UNCG did not have a timeout remaining and the Blue and Gold could not convert the buzzer beater attempt.
UNCG is back in action Tuesday morning as it hosts Tusculum at 11 in Fleming Gymnasium for Education Day. Admission to Tuesday morning’s contest is free.