The UNCG Women’s Basketball team was able to advance to the championship game of the Women’s Basketball Invitational on Sunday, but fell short in their final contest against the Rice Owls.
On Thursday evening, the Spartans defeated the Milwaukee Panthers 59-49 in Fleming Gymnasium to punch their ticket to the championship game. UNCG’s offense was powered by their guards, as Nadine Soliman scored 20 points on the evening, while Bailey Williams added another 15 points. Te’ja Twitty also reached double figures in scoring with 10 points.
The Panthers struggled to find rhythm through the Spartan defense, and as a result, committed 19 turnovers in the contest, leading to 17 UNCG points. On top of that, Milwaukee was only able to sink one three-pointer in 21 attempts.
“We were able to turn them over with our press, and so what happens is we make adjustments at halftime,” UNCG head coach Trina Patterson said, “They were breaking our press, and we made some adjustments on the second row.”
The first quarter was a back and forth affair between the two teams, but Bailey Williams was able to carry the Spartans to a quick 14-10 lead with 6 early points.
At halftime, the score was 31-29 in favor of UNCG. Williams continued to lead the charge for UNCG with 13 points, while the Panthers’ Steph Kostowicz secured a first half double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
In the third quarter, the proper adjustments were made to UNCG’s full court press, and the Spartans were able to force nine Panther turnovers in the period. UNCG stretched the lead to 12 before the Panthers were able to right the ship and cut the Spartans’ lead to just seven going into the final period.
The Spartans were able to maintain their lead in the fourth quarter, despite shooting only 27 percent in the period. UNCG stepped up and knocked in seven of eight free throw attempts to secure the victory and advance to the championship round.
Coach Patterson admitted that the team didn’t have its best shooting performance against Milwaukee, but the team was still able to come out on top:
“There’s a grind part to this where everyone’s tired,” she said. “Your bodies are tired, and your minds are tired, but you have to grind it out.”
The championship game took place Sunday evening in Houston, Texas versus the Rice Owls. The Spartans outrebounded Rice 48-45, but the Owls shot over 44 percent from the field compared to UNCG’s 31 percent, and had five players score in double figures.
UNCG’s Shanese Harris had a game high 20 points, while Nadine Soliman and Bailey Williams were able to add 13 and 12 points, respectively.
In the first ten minutes, both teams shot it well from the field, but the Spartans found themselves down 17-18.
UNCG was really able to get things going in the second quarter. The Spartans held the Owls without a field goal for a solid five-minute stretch, and finished the half leading the Owls 38-30.
Rice was able to immediately respond and started the second half on a 7-0 run, and captured a 49-48 advantage in the period. The Owls then closed the quarter on a 12-1 run, taking a 54-49 lead going into the final quarter.
The Spartans struggled to score in the fourth quarter, making only 4 of 21 field goal attempts, and were limited to just 13 points. Rice meanwhile, scored 20 points in the period, more than half of which were free throws. As the final buzzer sounded, the final score was Rice 74, UNCG 64.
Coach Patterson hopes that UNCG’s core of young players can use this postseason experience as a springboard for success in the coming years. This year, the Spartans reached 20 wins in one season for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
“It’s going to give us confidence early [next season], knowing what we did late,” Patterson said of the WBI experience. “20 wins is huge.”