ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The UNCG women's basketball team began its 2012-13 campaign with an entertaining contest against Charleston Southern Saturday, but Rachelle Coward scored 28 points for the Buccaneers to lead them to a 60-57 victory at Kimmel Arena.
"We did some really positive things in this game," head coach Wendy Palmer said. "However, we have a lot of work to do before Tuesday's game against Radford. The effort was there for the most part, but we need to learn to move on to the next play when something does not go our way."
Freshman point guard Lucy Mason turned in an impressive debut for the Spartans, scoring 17 points to go along with four rebounds and three steals. Junior Jarae Savage also reached double figures with 10 points while leading UNCG in rebounding with eight boards.
UNCG forced 29 turnovers in the contest, scoring 30 points off those miscues and ending up with 13 steals. The Spartans also received nine points off the bench while limiting the Bucs to six. Charleston Southern held a slight advantage in rebounding with 41 as compared to 35 for the Blue and Gold, but UNCG secured 12 offensive rebounds – including four from junior Janae' Stevenson. Additionally, the Buccaneers shot 42 percent from the field and knocked down nine three-point field goals with Coward draining five of them.
UNCG scored six of the first 11 points of the contest down low to hold a one-point advantage at the first media timeout. The Spartans then accelerated defensively, stealing the ball and scoring off those turnovers to build a 14-5 cushion with 14:22 remaining in the half.
It was Charleston Southern's turn to rally from there, out-scoring UNCG 16-0 over the next six minutes to forge into the lead at 21-14. A pair of old-fashioned three-point plays by junior Natalie Headley and freshman Lucy Mason helped the Spartans answer and UNCG would trail by just two, 26-24, with 2:22 showing on the clock. The teams headed into the locker room knotted at 28 as layups by juniors Jarae Savage and Breonna Patterson canceled a Zhaquondalee Greer jumper.
CSU held the upper hand in shooting percentage .407-.387 in the first 20 minutes while also out-rebounding the Spartans 22-14. UNCG was able to force 18 Buccaneer turnovers and scored 17 points as a result. Coward paced all scorers with 15 of her 28 points while Mason led the Spartans with seven.
Charleston Southern out-scored UNCG 14-3 over the first seven minutes of the second period, but the Spartans fought back and sliced the deficit to four points at 42-38 on a Mason layup with exactly 10 minutes on the clock. The Blue and Gold was unable to come any closer as the teams traded points, leaving the score at 50-44 at the 5:39 mark.
A three-point field goal by Erin Bratcher with 3:40 left seemed to put the game in jeopardy for the Spartans as the Bucs led by eight (55-47), but UNCG answered with a 6-0 spurred by a Mason three-point field goal to draw within 55-53 with 1:47 left on the clock.
Bratcher was not done, however, as she hit a dagger of a three-pointer to make the score 58-53 just seconds after a layup by Mason. After a tip-in field goal by Savage, Stevenson stole the ball and Savage came through with a layup after an offensive rebound to bring her team within one point, 58-57. DJ Fowler would knock down a pair of free throws, giving the Spartans the ball and a chance to tie at the buzzer. Headley had a good look from the right wing in an attempt to send the game to overtime, but her shot at the buzzer just missed off the rim and the Bucs escaped with the win.
UNCG opens its home schedule this Tuesday, Nov. 13, with a game against Radford. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Fleming Gymnasium.
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