For video of coach Wendy Palmer's postgame comments, click here.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Playing in front of the fifth-largest home crowd in school history, UNCG's women's basketball team fell to Liberty on Friday at Fleming Gymnasium, 61-46, in the season-opener for both squads. The contest also marked the debut of new UNCG coach Wendy Palmer.
Sidnei Harmon scored a team-high eight points and pulled down five rebounds for the Spartans (0-1), while freshman Jarae Savage had four points and a team-best six rebounds in her collegiate debut.
Liberty (1-0), ranked 20th in the nation in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, got a game-high 20 points from Devon Brown, while Reagan Miller scored 17. UNCG held preseason Big South Conference Player of the Year Avery Warley largely in check on the offensive end of the floor with eight points, but the reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Year had a dominant night on the boards with 14 rebounds.
The Spartans got off to a sluggish start to the evening, shooting just 25 percent (7-for-28) in the opening half and trailing by as many as 15 in the opening frame. Liberty also got off to a slow start and led just 6-0 more than four minutes in.
A pair of Natalie Headley free throws served as UNCG's first points of the season, but Miller scored nine of the Lady Flames' first 15 points as Liberty finally got some momentum going.
A 10-0 Liberty run midway through the first half turned a five-point game in a 15-point spread at 21-6, and UNCG was playing catch-up the rest of the night.
After Dayshaun Richbow's 3-pointer rattled in to beat the shot clock with 49 second left in the first, the Spartans trailed at the half, 29-17.
The Spartans kept pace with Liberty in the second half despite the Lady Flames shooting 52.2 percent (12-for-23) from the floor. After Brown's 3-pointer and steal and layup put the Lady Flames up 40-21 less than five minutes after intermission, the Spartans' offense seemed to get going.
After Breonna Patterson and Miller traded buckets, Sarah Folwell hit 3-pointers on two of UNCG's next three possessions to get the Spartans back within a baker's dozen at 42-29.
Liberty would push its lead back to 17 on a Danika Dale jumper with just over 10 minutes remaining, but the Spartans would chip away to get it back to 11 at 54-43 with 2:30 left.
Warley pushed Liberty's lead back to 13 points before the Lady Flames' salted the game away at the free throw line in the final minute.
UNCG turned the ball over only 12 times on the evening and forced 20 miscues by Liberty. UNCG also had 11 steals with Richbow accounting for five of them, matching her career high.
Headley, who had been limited to just 10 games in her two years at UNCG due to injury, scored a career-high six points in her first career start.
"There were a lot of positives," Palmer said. "Obviously, we didn't start the game out as we had hoped to, but we definitely had a better second half. We got Sarah (Folwell) back. We really hadn't had her in full practice for these five weeks because she got hurt on the very first day. So, I saw a lot of bright things. We were able to get stops when I asked them to get stops, so there are a lot of positives I can take from this. We definitely have a lot of work to do. I thought this was a good start because it allowed us to measure where we are and where we need to go as a team."
UNCG's crowd of 616 made some noise in cozy Fleming Gym, which also saw the debut of the newly named Lynne Agee Court in honor of the Spartans' longtime coach who retired after last season.
The Spartans return to action Wednesday at No. 20 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Carmichael Arena.
LIBERTY 61, UNCG 46
Devon Brown 7-11 4-5 20; Reagan Miller 6-11 4-9 17; Avery Warley 3-6 2-2 8; Terika Lunsford 3-8 0-0 6; Tolu Omotola 1-5 2-4 4; Jasmine Gardner 1-1 2-2 4; Danika Dale 1-2 0-0 2; Ellee Rollins 0-0 0-0 0; Catherine Kearney 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 22-45 14-23 61.
Sidnei Harmon 4-6 0-0 8; Sarah Folwell 2-6 0-0 6; Natalie Headley 2-5 2-3 6; Jazz Weaver 2-7 0-0 5; Breonna Patterson 2-7 1-2 5; Janae' Stevenson 1-5 2-2 4; Jarae Savage 2-11 0-0 4; Dayshaun Richbow 1-8 1-2 4; Nneka Awuruonye 2-3 0-2 4; Amy Clapper 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-58 6-11 46.
Liberty....................... 29 32 - 61
UNCG.......................... 17 29 - 46
3-point goals--Liberty 3-10 (Devon Brown 2-3; Reagan Miller 1-4; Terika Lunsford 0-3), UNCG 4-16 (Sarah Folwell 2-6; Jazz Weaver 1-2; Dayshaun Richbow 1-3; Jarae Savage 0-2; Breonna Patterson 0-2; Natalie Headley 0-1). Fouled out--Liberty-None, UNCG-Dayshaun Richbow. Rebounds--Liberty 40 (Avery Warley 14), UNCG 32 (Jarae Savage 6). Assists--Liberty 7 (Danika Dale 4), UNCG 9 (Natalie Headley 2; Sarah Folwell 2; Breonna Patterson 2). Total fouls--Liberty 14, UNCG 21. Technical fouls--Liberty-None, UNCG-None. A-616
- UNCG -