STATESBORO, Ga. – The UNCG women’s basketball team put together a furious rally from a 10-point halftime deficit Saturday, but Georgia Southern held on for a 74-71 Southern Conference victory at Hanner Fieldhouse. The Spartans trailed 37-27 at the break and were able to tie the game in the second half but never take the lead.
Senior forward Janae' Stevenson (Columbia, S.C./Eau Claire) fell just short of a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. She paced four Spartans in double-figure scoring as junior guard Jarae Savage (Marietta, Ga./North Cobb) netted 12 and sophomore guard Lucy Mason (Stone Mountain, Ga./Chamblee Charter) and junior guard Jessica Collins (Raleigh, N.C./Eckerd College) finished with 10 points apiece. Savage was also just shy of a double-double as she pulled down nine rebounds. Mason and freshman guard Bailey Williams (Harrisonburg, Va./Spotswood) each handed out six of UNCG’s 16 assists.
The Spartans (5-10, 1-3 SoCon) put up a stout 78 attempts from the field and hit 27 of those shots to end up at 34.6 percent from the field while the Eagles (5-11, 3-2 SoCon) knocked down 25 of 61 for 41 percent. UNCG hit nine three-point field goals in the contest on 19 attempts and was eight for 15 at the free throw line. GSU nailed five triples and 19 of 23 from the free throw line. The Blue and Gold won the rebounding battle 48-44 and recorded 22 offensive boards – leading to 21 second chance points. The Spartans committed just 12 turnovers in the game and forced 18 by the home team as UNCG picked up nine steals.
Georgia Southern raced out of the gates, netting the first seven points of the game before UNCG came roaring back to knot the score at 11 after a triple by senior guard Breonna Patterson (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley). After a timeout, the Eagles knocked in consecutive layups to go back up by four, but Patterson hit from deep again to pull the Spartans to within 15-14 at the 11:56 mark.
The teams continued to trade blows and a three by Collins (Raleigh, N.C./Eckerd) made the score 20-19 in favor of Georgia Southern with 10:06 to play in the half. UNCG went cold from that point and failed to get back in transition, leading to some easy buckets for the home team. When the dust settled, the Eagles found themselves up 33-21 and the Spartans called for timeout at the 5:47 mark.
The Spartans picked up things on the defensive side of the ball the rest of the way before the break, clamping down and forcing some turnovers. With GSU in front 37-27 and UNCG with the ball for the last possession of the stanza, Mason missed from the top of the key and the Eagles secured the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
Anna Claire Knight netted a whopping 17 points in the first 20 minutes as she had no problem getting to the basket. Patterson netted eight for UNCG. The Spartans shot just 27 percent (10 of 37) in the period and allowed the Eagles to fire at a 46-percent clip – knocking down 15 of 33 shots from the floor. UNCG did win the rebounding battle, securing 25 rebounds (11 offensive) as compared to Georgia Southern’s 21. The teams combined for 15 turnovers in the half with the Spartans responsible for eight of the miscues.
UNCG came out with a renewed energy to start the second half, scoring the first six points of the frame to pull within 37-33 with 17:41 to play. The teams traded three-pointers before the Eagles knocked down two-straight shots to go back up by eight at 44-36. The Blue and Gold kept chipping away and playing solid defense, eventually tying the game at 49 on a three-point field goal by Williams with 10:46 on the clock. In all, it was a 22-12 run for the Spartans out of the locker room.
The score stayed tied until the 8:17 mark when Knight hit a pair of free throws. Sierra Kirkland followed with a jumper to make the score 53-49 in favor of the home team. A layup by Stevenson with 5:24 left kept UNCG close, trailing just 57-53, but Knight canned a triple and Mimi DuBose hit three free throws after getting fouled beyond the arc to help Georgia Southern re-establish its 10-point advantage at 4:35.
With the Eagles leading 65-55 with 2:58 on the clock, the Spartans mounted one last rally. Williams and Mason hit back-to-back threes before the teams traded layups and Collins nailed a triple to slice the deficit to one with 44 seconds left. UNCG could not quite complete the rally, however, as Georgia Southern iced the game at the free throw line and led 73-68 with eight ticks on the clock. Collins would hit another three-point field goal with one second left to make it 73-71 and Lacie Dowling hit one of two at the line to account for the final margin.
UNCG returns to action Monday, Jan. 13, traveling to Davidson for a Southern Conference matchup. Tipoff at Belk Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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