HOUSTON, Texas – UNCG was unable to overcome a second half shooting draught, being outscored 44-24 in the second half as the Spartans fell 62-74 to Rice in the Women’s Basketball Invitational Championship Game.
UNCG finishes the season 20-15 overall, posting the program’s first 20-win campaign since the 2006-07 season.
“It’s been a great year and a great experience,” said head coach Trina Patterson. “We’ve done a lot of great things with this team and have changed the culture. Our seniors have done a fantastic job of leading the way. Our freshmen have learned and really didn’t play like freshmen for much of the year. I’m really proud of them.”
Though the finale didn’t go quite the way the Spartan faithful would have wanted, the postseason run will prove to be beneficial for a program that appears to be on the rise.
“This was a good experience in that you either win and advance or you go home,” continued Patterson. “We were able to win on the road at Charleston Southern and also at home. We learned a lot about playing hard and never quitting. That’s how we played all year.”
In her final game in the Blue and Gold, Shanese Harris paced the Spartans with 20 points, hitting 7-of-16 shots and 6-of-8 attempts at the charity stripe. Harris also chipped in five rebounds, four blocks and a pair of steals.
Nadine Soliman added 13 points, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals, while Bailey Williams posted 12 points, four assists and four steals.
The Spartans took 18 more shots than the Owls but were far less efficient. UNCG made 31.1-percent of its field goal attempts, compared to a 44.6 shooting percentage by Rice.
The Owls got off to a hot start, knocking down their first three shots. However, the Spartans were able to collect a few key offensive boards to keep the deficit to 6-7. However, the Spartans started to get a little sloppy midway through the quarter, allowing the Owls to build a 15-8 lead. UNCG came on strong to close out the quarter and India Timpton’s put back in the waning seconds cut the Rice advantage to 17-18 heading into the second.
The two teams went back-and-forth for the early part of the second quarter but midway through the period the Spartans made their move. UNCG held Rice without a field goal for more than five minutes of game time and a pair of Soliman free throws put the Blue and Gold up 34-28 with 3:47 left in the half.
The Spartans got out in transition early and often in the second quarter and by the halftime break UNCG had built a 38-30 lead. Soliman led the way with 12 points, while Harris nailed 4-of-7 shots for 11 points.
The Owls came out of the gates firing to start the third quarter, going on a 7-0 run to cut the Spartan lead to a single point. The Spartans were able to stop the bleeding but with 1:46 to go the Owls grabbed their first lead of the game at 49-48. Rice closed the third on a 12-1 run, taking a 54-49 lead into the final stanza.
The Spartans, however, just couldn’t get it going in the fourth. UNCG made just 4-of-21 field goal attempts in the final 10 minutes and were outscored 20-13 by the Owls.
“Today Rice was just better than us,” stated Patterson. “But this is not an indication of who we have been all season.”
With her first season on the bench for the Blue and Gold, Coach Patterson had some parting words for her very first senior class.
“I’d just like to say thank you for all that you’ve done,” she concluded. “They’ve been an incredible group with high character. Whatever they choose to do with their lives when they graduate they are going to be great because the have the character of successful people.