CULLOWHEE, N.C. – A jumper by Ali Lane in the final minute proved to be the difference Saturday as Western Carolina rallied late to top the UNCG women's basketball team by a score of 47-44 at the Ramsey Center. The contest was the Southern Conference opener for both squads.
Freshman Ciara Morris netted a career-best 13 points in the narrow loss with 10 of them coming in the second half alone. She also paced the Spartans with eight rebounds and five steals. The difference in the game was found in the shooting percentages. UNCG put up 63 shots as compared to 40 for Western, but the Spartans hit just 17 field goals to finish with a 27-percent showing from the field. The Catamounts hit 45-percent of their tries conversely. Western Carolina also finished with a 42-32 advantage on the glass, but the Blue and Gold secured 16 offensive rebounds to the Catamounts' 10.
The Spartans forced Western into 25 turnovers and committed only a season-low 12 themselves. UNCG also recorded double-digit steals for the fourth time in as many games this season with 12 – aided by Morris' five.
UNCG took a quick lead when a pair of steals and scores put the Spartans in front 4-0 at the 17:36 mark. After the Catamounts tied the contest at four on a layup by Rena Wakama, Mason netted a jumper and freshman Ciara Morris dropped in a three from the left side to deadlock the score at nine apiece.
A triple by Patterson and a layup by freshman Jazmine Missouri afforded UNCG some breathing room at 14-9 with 10:26 remaining in the half, but Western Carolina turned in a 17-4 run over the next nine minutes to take its largest lead of the first half, 26-18. Freshman Diamond Cooper scored her first collegiate points with 42 seconds on the clock, making the halftime score 26-20 in favor of the home team. The Spartans forced a shot clock violation with six ticks left, but Patterson could not quite get a shot at the buzzer to drop.
The Catamounts' Ali Lane scored seven points to lead all scorers in the first 20 minutes while senior Sidnei Harmon and Mason paced UNCG with four points each. Sophomore Jarae Savage pulled down four rebounds for the Spartans, but UNCG was outdone 21-13 on the glass with Shauna Terry giving Western five boards.
The Blue and Gold put up seven more shots than the home side, 29-22, but could only knock down nine of them for a 31-percent mark from the field. The Catamounts were decidedly more effective, draining 10 of 22 to end up at 46 percent. UNCG was able to force WCU into nine turnovers, just four below the Catamounts' per game average, and scored nearly half of their points (nine) off those miscues.
A free throw by Diamond Hunnicutt put Western Carolina up by seven at the beginning of the second half, but a 10-4 run, capped by a Savage three, pulled the Spartans within one at 31-30. Mason gave UNCG its biggest lead of the second half, 35-31, when she coolly hit a triple from the top of the key with a second remaining on the shot clock, but UNCG could score just a single point over the next seven minutes, allowing WCU to regain the upper hand by three at 41-38.
The next minute belonged to the Spartans as Morris scored six consecutive points to set UNCG up with a 44-41 advantage with 2:34 left in the contest. The Spartans kept the lead until, with 19 seconds remaining, Lane banked in a jumper from the free throw line to provide the decisive points. Harmon misfired on UNCG's next possession and Kristen Lyon knocked down a pair from the line to deliver the final score. The Spartans were not able to get a clean look at a three as the buzzer sounded.
The Blue and Gold returns to action quickly, hosting College of Charleston Monday at Fleming Gymnasium. The teams will tip off at 7 p.m.
- UNCG -