RADFORD, Va. – Despite shooting 70-percent from three-point land, UNCG women’s basketball dropped a tough 56-53 contest to the Radford Highlanders Tuesday afternoon. The Spartans hit a season-high nine three-pointers, led by Alexus Willey’s (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) season-high five. The hot shooting Spartans couldn’t carry the momentum into the final quarter, hitting just three field goals over the last ten minutes.
“There’s two parts to building a championship team, rebounding and playing defense.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “Today we played really good defense, we held Radford to 30-percent from the floor, but we did not rebound the way we expect. We had a couple ill-advised plays down the stretch and on the road, we can’t make those mistakes.”
“We have to learn how to sustain.” Patterson continued, “There has been growth since the last game, growth offensively and maturity. But sustaining the momentum we started with today is something we’ll have to work on. We’re still very young and this is a growth period. The atmosphere today was great, it was a great stage for our players. Alexus (Willey) had another big game for us. Our guards played well today.”
UNCG falls to 4-3 on the season, while Radford improves to 3-1. Willey led the Spartans with 16 points. Brandi Fier (South Beloit, Ill./Illinois Central) added 12 points and four assists in the loss. Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) led all competitors on the boards, pulling down 15. UNCG was outrebounded 39-33.
Radford had three players score in double figures, with Janayla White and Jayda Worthy recording double doubles.
With the game tied 9-9, Willey hit her second three-pointer of the game and ignited a 17-4 Spartan run. UNCG ended the first quarter with a 16-11 lead and carried that momentum into the second quarter when Fier connected from distance less than a minute in. Radford hit a pair of layups before UNCG scored the next seven points.
The Highlanders countered with a 7-0 run of its own to cut the lead down to 26-20. Lydia Rivers hit a pair of free throws and Worthy converted five points for the Highlanders. Willey and D.J. Howard (Orangeburg, S.C./Georgia Tech) hit back-to-back three-pointers to extend the Spartan lead back out to 32-30 before a Claudia Quevedo three in the final minute cut the lead back to nine.
Radford clamped down on the Spartans over the final 15 minutes. UNCG went up by 15 after an Aneka Yelverton (Suffolk, Va./Naval Academy Preparatory) three-pointer at 41-26, but Radford answered with a 7-0 run over the next two minutes. The Highlanders hit four free throws in the run. The Spartans got a bucket back after Fier drove through the Highlander defense to put in a layup, but Radford closed the quarter on a 7-1 run with Rivers hitting a layup to cut the Spartan lead to 44-39.
After Khiana Johnson and Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) traded threes to open the final quarter, Radford cut the lead down to one after a layup from White. Willey countered with a three-pointer of her own to extend UNCG’s lead back to 50-46 with 7:37 remaining. The next four minutes was well played defensively, with a Radford free throw being the only point. The Highlanders used a pair of transition scores to take their first lead at 51-50 with 3:21 remaining.
UNCG went back up after Fier again was able to navigate the defense and hit a layup, and Ajemba hit one of two free throws to go up 53-51 with 1:54 remaining. White put Radford back in front, hitting a layup after getting fouled, and hitting the and one free throw to go up 54-53. The Spartans called a timeout to set up a play with 25 seconds remaining, but the Radford defense was equal to the task as they forced a shot clock violation. A UNCG foul gave Radford a chance to extend its lead as Claudia Quevedo converted two free throws with less than a second remaining.
UNCG is back on the floor Saturday at 6 p.m. as it heads to Virginia for a matchup with the Cavaliers at 6 p.m.