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Radford women advance in tourney
The Highlanders pull away late to knock off UNC Asheville in the Big South tournament.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
CONWAY, S.C. — Once finding out her team would be facing UNC Asheville in Wednesday’s first round of the Big South tournament, Radford women’s basketball coach Tajama Ngongba should have been jumping for joy, right?
“That’s what makes it petrifying,” Ngongba said. “Because everybody says we’re supposed to win.”
No doubt. The bottom seed Bulldogs had lost 20 straight games and hadn’t won a league tournament game since 2007.
While it was far from automatic, leading by only seven points with 2:37 left, the Highlanders embarked on a game-closing 10-0 spurt to take care of business in a 56-39 victory at Coastal Carolina’s HTC Center.
The victory boosted No. 6 Radford (15-13) into Friday’s quarterfinals, in which it will face No. 3 Presbyterian (19-10) at 2 p.m. The two clubs split a pair of regular-season meetings. The last tango was nine days ago in Radford, where Presbyterian put the Highlanders on lockdown in a 49-31 victory.
The mere mention of that encounter has senior forward Sarah Tabb jacked.
“We don’t like the way we lost that game,” said Tabb, who contributed 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds Wednesday. “We don’t like losing in general. But that was not fun, it wasn’t pretty, so I think we’re really going to come back and we’re going to put on a show, I’m positive of it.”
Radford’s performance was hardly a Rembrandt. While they never trailed, the Highlanders shot only 37.1 percent (23-for-62), including 1-for-10 from 3-point range. The positives were a defense that forced 25 turnovers that led to a 13-0 edge in fast break points and an 18-10 edge on the offensive boards that helped Radford to a decisive 32-12 differential in points in the paint.
“I was smiling we won the boards,” Ngongba said. “That’s something we’ve talking about consistently that this time of year games are won on the boards. And it was good to see that we were able to force 25 turnovers and playing defensively.”
Freshman guard Diani Mason paced Radford with 14 points, matching a career high. Mason’s four free throws sandwiched around a steal and layup by Wytheville’s Ashley Buckhannon in a 65-second stretch enabled the Highlanders to ice the game after the underdogs closed to seven late.
“We knew we were going to pick it up when we felt that [the Bulldogs] felt too good about the game. That’s when we had to get them right back. And we just went on a run and shut them down,” said Mason, whose speed enabled her to repeatedly beat the ‘Dogs to the basket on penetration off the dribble.
Now comes the rubber game with Presbyterian. The Highlanders brought enough clothes to stick around for Sunday’s title game.
“Oh, absolutely,” Tabb said of her filled suitcase. “And I’ve got my ringer finger ready so I could put a big ring on it!”
UNC ASHEVILLE (2-28)
Riles 2-7 3-4 7, Buckner 3-8 0-0 8, Manley 1-6 6-8 8, Blaylock 2-7 36 8, Love 1-9 0-0 2, McGirt 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 11-42 14-20 39.
Tabb 4-9 4-4 12, Holmes 2-7 0-2 4, Gordon 3-8 1-2 7, Hamilton 3-8 0-1 6, Buckhannon 4-13 0-2 9, Foy 1-2 0-0 2, Avery 0-4 0-0 0, Mason 5-9 4-4 14, Brockett 0-0 0-0 0, McIvor 0-1 0-0 0, Reskoska 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-62 9-15 56.
Halftime—Radford 32-21. 3-Point Goals—UNCA 3-12 (Buckner 2-7, Blaylock 1-4, Love 0-1), Radford 1-10 (Buckhannon 1-6, Avery 0-3, Foy 0-1). Fouled Riles, Gordon. Rebounds—UNCA 35 (Manleyh 8), Radford 43 (Tabb, Holmes 9). Total Fouls—UNCA 16, Radford 17. Technical—None.
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