GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG women’s basketball is back in action this Saturday as it hosts the Southern Conference-leading Mercer Bears at 4 p.m. in Fleming Gymnasium. Saturday night is UNCG’s Play4Kay game. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and the first 500 fans will receive pink Spartan Basketball t-shirts. There will also be a postgame autograph session with fans having a chance to meet the 2017-18 UNCG women’s basketball team. Fans can help donate to the UNCG women’s basketball Play4Kay fund by clicking here.
There will be live stats and video available for Saturday’s contest. Stats are available via uncgstats.com and the video will be live streamed on the SoCon Digital Network with Paul Roper on the call. Links for these services are located on the UNCG women’s basketball schedule page.
In UNCG’s youngest SoCon rivalry, the Spartans have yet to emerge victorious, falling in the previous nine meetings. Mercer’s last trip to the Gate City saw the Bears earn a 77-64 win.
Last time out, UNCG faced off with a tough Samford squad, falling 60-53. The Spartans went cold in the fourth quarter and were scoreless over the final 6:27 of the game. Senior center Ije Ajemba (Lanham, Md./Old Dominion) led UNCG with 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the contest. UNCG stifled the Samford starting five, limiting the starters to just 12 combined points. The Bulldog bench kept Samford in the game, scoring 48 points in the contest.
Nadine Soliman (Cairo, Egypt/Mokattam Language School) leads the Spartan offense with 14.1 points per game average. Over the last six games, Soliman has stepped up her game to average 18.0 points per contest. In SoCon play, she is leading the league with a 46-percent shooting clip from 3-point range.
Ajemba leads the SoCon in all individual rebounding categories and has broken UNCG Division I era rebounding records in total rebounds, defensive rebounds, single game rebounds and is just two away from tying the single season offensive rebounding record, held by Janae’ Stevenson (111). Ajemba adds to her prowess on the glass by adding 11.8 points per game. She also leads the team with 26 blocks on the season and has grabbed 25 steals. She’s also set a new school record with 13 double-doubles on the season.
Alexus Willey (Waldorf, Md./Riverdale Baptist) and Te’ja Twitty (Rutherfordton, N.C./Rutherfordton-Spindale Central) add 9.6 and 9.3 points per game, respectively. Willey gets it done from distance, being second on the team with 38 made 3-pointers. Twitty is tough in the paint as she shoots 45-percent from the floor and grabs 6.2 rebounds per game.
Ajemba and Twitty are the top two rebounders in the SoCon in league play, averaging 13.6 and 7.8 rebounds per game, respectively. That effort on the glass has led to the Spartans out rebounding its opponents by an average of 3.9 per game. UNCG averages 12.7 offensive rebounds per game, which has led to 321-second chance points this season.
During league play, UNCG has used the 3-point shot to its advantage, shooting 35-percent and limiting opponents to 28-percent from 3-point range.
Mercer enters Saturday’s game with the nation’s third-longest winning streak at 21 consecutive victories and has yet to lose in Southern Conference play. The Bears have been hot all season, winning three-straight to start the season before losing its only two games of the back-to-back against Georgia and Western Kentucky.
The Mercer offense is one of the best in the country at taking care of the ball, ranking first in assist/turnover ratio at 1.8. Mercer also ranks as the best in the nation in fewest turnovers per game, 9.5, and fewest total turnovers, 238. A lot of that success comes from point guard Sydni Means. Means averages 8.2 assists per game, third-best in the nation, ranks first with a 4.74 assists/turnover ratio and fifth nationally with 204 assists.
Pairing with Means is the Preseason SoCon Player of the Year, Kahlia Lawrence and junior guard KeKe Calloway. Lawrence leads the SoCon with 18.6 points per game with Calloway coming in third in the league with 17.5 points per game. Lawrence shoots 44-percent from the floor and hits 33-percent from 3-point range. Calloway relies more on the 3-ball to score, hitting a total of 83 3-pointers on the year, shooting 39-percent from distance. She’s a 43-percent shooter from the floor and the pair each hit over 80-percent from the free throw line.
Mercer’s weakness is on the glass as the Bears have been out rebounded 940-913 on the season, for an average of 1.0 per game. That plays into UNCG’s strength as the Spartans are second in the league with a +3.9 rebounding margin. Amanda Thompson is the primary rebounder for the Bears, hauling down 6.5 per game. Lawrence adds 5.3 rebounds per game with Rachel Selph grabbing 4.0.