CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – UNCG women’s basketball held the Chattanooga Mocs to 32-percent shooting from the field, but could not escape McKenzie Arena with the win, falling 49-42. In the Southern Conference opener for both schools, UNCG had two players score in double figures as Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) recorded her eighth double-double of the season. UNCG falls to 6-10 overall and 0-1 in SoCon action. Chattanooga improves to 10-5 and 1-0 in the SoCon.
“I’m really proud of our defensive effort tonight.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “If we can play defense like this throughout the SoCon schedule, we’ll be alright. I was excited that we held them to 32-percent from the floor, but we have to do a better job offensively. One of our goals was to take away the 3-point shot. They lead the conference in 3-point attempts and we were able to run them off of that. Ije (Ajemba) had an all-conference caliber performance and we beat them on the boards. We had some good things in this game and we have some things to look forward to.”
Ajemba led the Spartans with 16 points in the contest and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) added 10 points in the loss and grabbed seven rebounds of her own. Te’ja Twitty (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) and Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) each added seven points and Twitty grabbed seven rebounds.
UNCG was tough on the glass, out rebounding the Mocs 40-37. The Spartans had 11 offensive rebounds that led to nine second-chance points. UTC forced 15 Spartan turnovers compared to just nine for the Mocs and UTC outscored the Spartans 17-7 off of turnovers.
The Spartans earned their biggest lead of the game in the first quarter. UNCG went on a 9-2 run over 4:07 with Twitty putting home layup on a pass from Brandi Fier (South Beloit, Ill./Illinois Central) to go up 12-6. Over the final 2:48 of the game, UTC’s Keiana Gilbert hit a layup and a jumper to cut the lead down to 12-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Aryanna Gilbert tied the game up 45 seconds into the second quarter. She stole a Spartan pass and drove in for the fast break lay in to tie it up at 12. UNCG regained a three-point lead after Soliman hit two free throws with 5:22 left in the quarter but Bria Dial erased the lead with a 3-pointer of her own. UTC closed the quarter out on a 4-0 run with Shelbie Davenport hitting a layup to go up 23-21 at the end of the first half.
With the score tied at 28, UTC scored the final eight points over 3:12 to close out the third quarter up 36-28. Aryanna Gilbert hit a pair of free throws, Keiana Gilbert scored in the paint and Dial hit a three with 0:04 on the clock to take the lead eight-point lead.
UTC extended its lead to 45-31 on a Keiana Gilbert layup before UNCG countered. The Spartans used a 9-0 run to cut the lead down to 45-40 with 0:59 remaining in the game. After an Ajemba foul, Arianne Whitaker hit one-of-two free throws to go up 46-40. Soliman was able to drive and lay one in to cut the lead to 46-42 with 0:49 left in the game. UTC hit three-of-four foul shots over the final 0:46 as a Spartan turnover and a missed 3-point attempt ended UNCG’s comeback chances.
The Spartans are back in action Saturday as they continue the SoCon road swing at ETSU in Johnson City, Tennessee.