DURHAM, N.C. – Despite Ije Ajemba’s (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) third double-double on the season, UNCG women’s basketball dropped its matchup with No. 14 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday night, 85-54. The Spartans played a clean game, committing just five fouls in the contest. The five fouls is the lowest game total since February 27th, 2013, in a loss to Appalachian State. UNCG falls to 4-5 on the season, and Duke improves to 7-2.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re the youngest team in the country, and sometimes it doesn’t.” Head coach Trina Patterson said, “Seeing the one point difference later in the game, that encourages me as a coach. 86-percent of our team are underclassmen, and it looked like it tonight with the careless passes and turnovers. At the same time, I saw some outstanding play from our senior, Ije (Ajemba).”
“We played competitive, but Duke is a very good passing team and they carved us up.” Patterson continued, “Our goal was to eliminate the three-point game. I thought we did a fairly good job with that, but the 24 assists and making the extra passes really stretched us out. For some of our players, we’re really happy with what we see on the stat sheet.”
Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) paced the Spartan offense, scoring 15 points. She did the bulk of her damage from the free throw line, sinking a career-high nine in 13 attempts. Ajemba added 13 points while hauling down 14 rebounds, six being offensive boards.
The Spartans took their first lead early in the first quarter. After Willey was fouled on a three-point attempt, she sank all three freebies to give the Spartans the 5-4 lead. Duke answered with a 7-2 run to take a 15-7 lead with 4:53 remaining in the first quarter. UNCG cut the lead down to 19-15 after Te’ja Twitty (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) sank two free throws, but Duke closed the quarter with two more buckets to extend its lead to 23-15.
UNCG came out fast in the second quarter, getting three-pointers from Soliman and Aneka Yelverton (Suffolk, Va./Naval Academy Preparatory) with an Ajemba jumper bringing the Spartans within two at 25-23 with 8:40 left in the half. Duke again countered the Spartan attack, finishing the quarter by outscoring the Spartans 19-6 to head to halftime leading 44-29.
Willey cut the lead back down to 13 following a pair of free throws with 8:19 remaining in the third quarter, but the Spartans could come no closer down the stretch. UNCG went cold in the third quarter, scoring just eight points and shooting 2-of-11 from the field. Ajemba and Willey each hit a pair free throws.
Willey helped get UNCG back on track in the fourth quarter, as the Spartans put up 17 points in the final 10 minutes. Willey scored eight and Ajemba added five. Twitty and Dijana Milisic (Sydney Australia/Blacktown Girls) each scored in the final quarter.
The Spartans return to the court this Monday as they will take on Murray State in Fleming Gymnasium at 7 p.m.