GREENSBORO, N.C. – Down by 11 in the second half, the UNCG women's basketball team fought back and came away with a 60-59 victory over Furman Monday evening at Fleming Gymnasium.
The win marks the first for the Spartans (6-19, 3-13) at home in Southern Conference play and the first over the Paladins (10-15, 6-10) since Dec. 20, 2010 – also in Greensboro. UNCG also matched its SoCon win total from last season.
"I am really proud of and excited for these ladies tonight because the entire team contributed to this win in some shape of form," head coach Wendy Palmer said. "Our fans here in Fleming were finally able to see the good things we had been doing on the road. I am also happy our team was able to finally see the rewards of their hard work in tonight's result."
Freshman guard Ebona Goins (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley), who scored the winning free throw, led three Spartans in double figures offensively with 12 points. Junior forward Janae' Stevenson (Columbia, S.C./Eau Claire) and freshman guard Lucy Mason chipped in with 10 points apiece. Stevenson also paced the Blue and Gold with six rebounds (three offensive) while also increasing her career blocks total to 102 with two rejections.
In an evenly-played contest, Furman out-shot UNCG (.489-.407), but the Spartans knocked down one more shot (24-23) and took 12 more attempts from the field overall (59-47). UNCG was also able to force the Paladins into 20 turnovers, scoring 14 points off those miscues, while converting the visitors' mistakes into 14 points and six steals. Furman won the rebounding battle overall, 32-30, but the Spartans finished with a 14-6 advantage on the offensive glass – leading to 11 second chance points.
The teams traded layups in the first minute of the game, but the Paladins netted the next six points to push in front by six with 16:41 on the clock. Stevenson then scored four points followed by a jumper by sophomore guard Jessica Collins (Raleigh, N.C./Eckerd College) as UNCG knotted the score at eight apiece. After a steal by junior guard Breonna Patterson (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley), sophomore guard Jarae Savage (Marietta, Ga./North Cobb) dropped in a fast break layup to give the Spartans their first lead of the game with 11:40 left in the half.
The UNCG advantage grew to five at 20-15 when senior forward Sidnei Harmon (Cincinnati, Ohio/Turpin) hit a jumper at the 8:25 mark and that margin would stay the same as Goins knocked down a pair of foul shots with 6:05 remaining in the period. Furman would eventually take the lead at 29-28 when Teisha Griswold drained a triple at the 1:19 mark, but the Spartans netted the final four points of the stanza, including a buzzer-beating jumper by Mason at the top of the key, to take a 32-29 edge into the break.
Griswold led all scorers in the first 20 minutes with 11 points while Mason tallied eight for the home team. The Paladins out-shot UNCG .550-.419, but turned the ball over 13 times which led to eight points for the Spartans. Furman also held the rebounding edge 15-13.
The Paladins asserted themselves in the opening moments of the second half as the Furman guards fed Brittany Hodges down low. She would score six of the first eight points of the period to help the visitors build a 37-32 lead. Stevenson would stop the run at the 16:47 mark to slice the UNCG deficit to three, but the Spartans went cold from there and allowed the Paladins to build a nine-point cushion at 43-34 with 12:56 to go.
Janice Roberts would cap a 10-2 run with a layup to afford Furman its largest advantage of the game at 47-36 with 11:55 on the clock, but baskets by Mason and Harmon quickly shrunk UNCG's deficit to seven. A layup by Patrice Butler at the 9:45 mark seemed to put the Paladins in control 51-42, but the Spartans out-scored Furman 6-0 in the next two minutes to make a game of it. Hodges briefly put the visitors ahead by seven, 55-48, with 6:01 remaining, but a jumper by Stevenson ended an 8-2 UNCG run as the Paladins saw their lead shrink to just one at 57-56 at the 3:12 mark.
A free throw by Collins tied things at 57 with 2:43 on the clock before Hodges knocked down a pair of her own charity tosses to give Furman a 59-57 lead at the 1:31 mark. Goins made a nice move down the lane for a layup to knot the score at 59 on the Spartans' next possession. She was not done impacting the game, however, as she drew an offensive foul on Hodges which fouled the forward out.
Patterson came up with another big defensive play as she stole the ball from Brigid Morrissey with 31 seconds left, gained possession and called timeout. Goins then sliced to the basket once more and drew the fifth foul on Roberts as the clock ticked down to 12 seconds. She made good on the first free throw to make the score 60-59 before missing the second. Stevenson skied above everyone to corral the offensive rebound and pushed the ball out to Mason, who was fouled with seven seconds left. She missed both foul shots, setting up one final possession for Furman.
Kaitlin Murphy took the ball down the floor and cut to the left side in an attempt to get a good look at the basket, but her game-winning attempt fell well short as time expired.
The Spartans continue their four-game homestand Wednesday, Feb. 20, welcoming Davidson to Fleming Gymnasium. The teams will tip off at 7 p.m.
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