GREENSBORO, N.C. – Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) helped UNCG women’s basketball send off 2017 in spectacular fashion as the Spartans defeated the Lees-McRae Bobcats, 78-62 Sunday afternoon. Willey recorded her first career double-double with 17 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. She set new career highs with four assists and four blocks in the win. This was the final non-conference game of the season as the Spartans will begin Southern Conference play later this week.
“I’m happy with how we played today.” Trina Patterson said, “Our goal is to have three players score in double figures and today we had four players achieve that goal. Another goal for us is to hold teams to shooting below 40-percent from the field and we were able to do that today. I thought we had a strong performance from Alexus (Willey) with career highs in rebounds, assists and blocks.”
“We were very competitive in most if not all of our nonconference games.” Patterson continued, “We competed hard every night. We didn’t have some of the results that we wanted, but our effort was good in every game and I’m proud of that. I’m not happy with where we are in terms of wins and losses, but with this young team, we’ll turn those losses into learning experience and be better for it during the Southern Conference schedule.”
Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) added a 17-point performance, going 6-of-12 from the field and hitting a pair of 3-pointers. Te’ja Twitty (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) added a 16-point game and hauled down seven rebounds.
Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) tallied her seventh double-double of the season and third consecutive. The senior Spartan scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds with six offensive boards.
The Spartans dominated the Bobcats on the glass, out rebounding Lees-McRae 49-27. 17 of UNCG’s rebounds were on the offensive glass that led to 19-second chance points.
UNCG dialed up the 3-ball in the first quarter, hitting three of its six 3-pointers in the opening 10 minutes. With the game tied at 13, UNCG closed the quarter out by outscoring the Bobcats 7-3. Aneka Yelverton (Suffolk, Va./Naval Preparatory Academy) took a pass from Willey to the hoop for a fast break layup and before Willey hit from deep to go up 20-13. In the final 0:31, Lees-McRae cut the lead down to 20-16 with Breana Hardnett hitting one of two free throws with 0:01 remaining.
Lees-McRae kept pace with UNCG in the second quarter. The Spartans extended their lead to 31-25 after an Ajemba layup off of an assist from Willey. The Bobcats cut the lead to two with 2:24 left on a Brea Forbes jumper, but Twitty extended the lead back to four on the next possession after an excellent feed from Soliman. The teams went scoreless over the final 2:04 and UNCG went to the half up 33-29.
The third quarter has been a puzzling one for the Spartans this season, but UNCG solved the riddle Sunday, outscoring Lees-McRae 23-13. With 4:35 remaining in the quarter, a Grace Canella jumper brought the score to 45-39 before UNCG went on an 11-0 run that was capped off by Soliman’s second 3-pointer of the afternoon. Mackenzie Blankenship used an old-fashioned three-point play to cut the lead to 56-42 at the end of the third quarter.
The Spartans were able to keep the Bobcats at bay for the rest of the game. Lees-McRae came close with 4:11 remaining after Markia Stacey hit from deep to cut the lead down to 65-59. The Spartans were able to answer and finished the game off on a 13-3 run to secure the victory.
The Spartans return to action in the new year, as they will travel to Chattanooga, Tennessee to open Southern Conference play against the Chattanooga Mocs January 4th at 5:30 p.m.