The UNC Asheville women’s basketball team traveled to Gardner-Webb University and looked unwelcome from the pre-game to the final buzzer ending in a 51-57 loss for their last road game of the 2015-16 regular season Tuesday.
The game started with a presentation of the Gardner-Webb seniors, who played the last home game of their careers. Olivia Parker, senior forward, and Candace Brown, senior guard, rank among the top in scoring and rebounds all time for Gardner-Webb.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs sprinted to a first quarter lead behind the torrid shooting of Alexus Hill, sophomore guard. Hill hit four of GWU’s first five shots from the field, two from behind the 3-point arc. Parker added another 3-pointer, and UNCA fell behind 4-13 after only three minutes.
The UNCA bright spot came from K.J. Weaver, junior center, who scored the Bulldogs’ first four points and established her presence against the large GWU frontcourt. Weaver looked ahead to this matchup following UNCA’s win against Radford University.
“They have Olivia and she’s a pretty big post player, gets rebounds and scores points,” Weaver said.
Weaver finished the game with a team-high 15 points, which ties her previous career high. She also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Bronaza Fitzgerald, UNCA sophomore center, subbed in for Weaver and played well under the basket, scoring nine points and securing four offensive rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Chatori Major, Bulldog junior guard, made her only 3-point shot of the game in the first half, but could not find her stroke as multiple shots rattled in and then out. UNCA as a team only managed 2-of-18 or 11.1 percent from beyond the arc for the game.
Tianna Knuckles, UNCA junior guard and one of the leading scorers, injured her leg early and played only seven minutes in the first half. GWU led by 10 at the half, 38-28.
Knuckles returned to the floor and scored her only four points of the game at the beginning of the third quarter, which helped shrink the Bulldogs’ deficit. Strong inside play continued from Weaver and Fitzgerald, then a Chatori Major jumper tied the game 42-42 with 1:15 remaining in the third, the first tie since 2-2.
GWU filled the stat-sheet with offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. The Runnin’ Bulldogs maintained possession most of the first three minutes before K.J. Weaver scored on a beautiful play under the basket.
Another Chatori Major jump shot tied the game again at 51-51 with 2:45 left.
Major finished the game with nine points, four below her average output.
GWU made the game’s final six points from the free throw line as the Bulldogs missed 3-pointers at the other end of the court. The boisterous GWU crowd chanted “air ball” as the Bulldogs rushed their shots and fell victim to tired legs.
UNCA remains in first place in the Big South Conference with a 14-3 record, 21-5 overall. Their schedule includes three home games against teams in the lower half of the conference. The Bulldogs played Campbell University at Kimmel Arena on Saturday.