SPARTANBURG, S.C. – UNCG women’s basketball powered through a tough second quarter to defeat the Wofford Terriers 81-75 in overtime inside the Richardson Indoor Stadium Saturday afternoon. Pitchford scored five points in the contest, going 5-of-6 from the free throw line during the overtime period and hit four free throws with less than 0:11 remaining. UNCG improves to 11-15 overall and 5-6 in the Southern Conference. Wofford falls to 10-16 and 3-8 in league play.
Four Spartans scored in double figures as Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) broke her own school record by grabbing 22 rebounds in the victory. Te’ja Twitty’s (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) season-high 20 points led the Spartan offense. Ajemba added 19 points to earn her 13th double-double of the season, adding to her school record for double-doubles in a season.
Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) scored 13 points, added five rebounds and a pair of assists. Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) started slow but finished the game with 12 points, four rebounds and an assist.
Alexis Pitchford (Orlando, Fla./Winter Park) added five points off the bench, all from the free throw line in the overtime period and dished out a team-high three assists. The five free throws all came in the overtime period, helping UNCG seal the win.
“I’m really proud of our resiliency today.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “We were down 10 at halftime and we fought back. It wasn’t anything strategically that we needed to fix, I just told the team at halftime that we needed more energy. We needed to make more plays and play with more energy. They stuck with it, they fought through it, even in the overtime when Wofford went on their run, we just kept clawing and fighting.”
“We talked about how aggressive we could be at the beginning of the game.” Patterson continued, “We talked about being a black rhino, a hippopotamus or a black mamba and how these animals have to be aggressive, but some aren’t aggressive until provoked. We were provoked to be aggressive today and we needed to use our tools to get that game won. To come back, it shows a lot of heart.”
“Individually, we moved the ball well.” Patterson said, “We had four people in double figures. Alexis (Pitchford), Alexus (Willey) and Te’ja (Twitty) each had big bounce back games after Thursday night. We need to do a better job taking care of the basketball. I thought we did a good job limiting Wofford’s interior game, we stuck to the game plan and fought it out to the end.”
The Spartans came out fast in the first quarter, going on a 10-0 run to open the first 2:50 of the game. Ajemba and Twitty each scored in the paint in the first minute before Brandi Fier (South Beloit, Ill./Illinois Central CC) hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions forcing Wofford to call its first timeout. After Da’Ja Green got Wofford on the board, Willey drilled a 3-ball to go up 11 before Soliman extended the lead to UNCG’s largest of the afternoon at 13. Wofford closed the first quarter out by going on a 6-0 run to end the first quarter with UNCG leading 17-15.
The Terriers went to work in the second quarter, doubling up the Spartans’ scoring, 24-12. After a Cece Crudup (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs) layup put UNCG up 19-17, Wofford went on a 10-3 run to grab a 27-21 lead with 5:53 remaining. Ajemba hit a pair of free throws with 3:00 on the clock before Wofford closed the quarter on a 6-2 run. Willey hit a layup with 0:13 on the clock to limit the Wofford lead to 39-29 at the halfway point.
The Spartans mounted their comeback in the third quarter. UNCG opened the second half on an 8-0 run after Willey finished up an old-fashioned 3-point play with 6:59 remaining in the quarter. Wofford extended the lead back to eight after Emily Ryan hit two of three free throws. A D.J. Howard (Orangeburg, S.C./Georgia Tech) jumper cut the lead to 49-43 before the teams exchanged points down the stretch to go to the fourth quarter with the Spartans down 52-46.
UNCG continued the comeback in the fourth quarter as Ajemba tied the game up at 60 with a layup with 3:08 remaining. Wofford’s Cairo Booker put the Terriers back up two by hitting a pair of free throws before Willey hit a 3-pointer off a pass from Pitchford to give UNCG a narrow 63-62 lead. UNCG extended its lead out to three twice before a Green layup with 0:11 left tied the game at 68. The Spartans had a chance late, but a 3-point attempt was unable to find the net as the game went to overtime.
The overtime period started with Willey hitting a pair of free throws before Wofford went on a 5-0 run to take the lead at 73-70 with 2:10 remaining. Soliman answered with a layup to cut the lead down to one. After a missed Wofford 3-pointer, Soliman grabbed the rebound and Ajemba finished at the rim to put UNCG up 74-73. Soliman hit a pair of free throws with 0:28 remaining but an Anna Clair Atha layup cut the lead back down to 76-75. After a Wofford foul, UNCG hit one of two from the charity stripe with 0:11 seconds left. Wofford called a timeout and on the ensuing inbounds, Pitchford was able to steal the possession and was fouled. She hit four free throws in the final 0:06 to seal the Spartan victory at 81-76.
The Spartans are back in action Thursday night as they host the Samford Bulldogs at 7 p.m. in Fleming Gymnasium.