Bulldogs soar higher than Eagles

UNC Asheville women’s basketball team defeated the short-staffed Winthrop Eagles, 67-59, for their first win in Rock Hill, SC since 2011.

The Bulldogs’ Monday night matchup with Winthrop University looked to be a huge mismatch. UNCA carried with them a three-game winning streak and sat atop the Big South Conference standings in a tie with Liberty University. Winthrop inhabited the last-place spot after losing their last two games and nearly half of their team to injury, including the conference’s leading scorer, junior forward Erica Williams.

“We’re just trying to hold together with bubble gum and barbed wire,” said Kevin Cook, Winthrop head coach.

The Eagles suited only six players against a UNCA team with Big South player of the week, junior guard Chatori Major who torched the Eagles for her career high of 28 points in the season’s earlier meeting, but the win wouldn’t come easy.

“Winthrop is one of the toughest places to play in the league and they have continued to get better despite injuries throughout the season,” said Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick, UNCA head coach.

The Bulldogs led quickly after winning the tip-off and junior guard Tianna Knuckles knocked down a 3-point shot in their first possession. UNCA hit nine 3-pointers for the game; their average hovers at 5.8 per game.  Junior guard Ja-Da Brayboy scored a jumper capping the Bulldogs first quarter scoring , but the Eagles scored just before the buzzer to bring the score to 22-17

Knuckles opened the second quarter with another 3-pointer, Bronaza Fitzgerald, UNCA’s sophomore center, scored six points on three put-backs and freshman guard Sonora Dengokl showed her skills by driving and scoring from the field and the free-throw line. The UNCA lead grew to 44-28 at halftime.

“We dug ourselves too big a hole,” Cook said.

The Eagles never gave up and played the second half looking to grab the upset. UNCA scored only 12 points in the third quarter, six from the free throw stripe. The lead decreased by three, 56-43.

In the fourth, Knuckles and Major each hit early 3-pointers to push the lead back to fifteen and despite a valiant effort, the Eagles never truly threatened as the Bulldogs ran out the clock.

“Our team was in and out of sync this evening,” Kirkpatrick said. “Getting a road win is always a good thing in this league.”

Knuckles and Major scored 14 points and sophomore guard Khaila Webb added 12. Fitzgerald nearly notched a double double with ten points and eight rebounds.

The Bulldogs play Coastal Carolina at Kimmel Arena Saturday 2 p.m. The Chanticleers look to improve on their two Big South Conference wins to date.

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