by Alex Stradford – firstname.lastname@example.org – Staff Writer
UNC Asheville’s slow start allowed Radford University to gain a 16-point lead within the first three minutes to ease them to a comfortable second half leaving the final score 64-52.
The Highlanders advance their Big South play 5-11, while the Bulldogs fall to 6-9 in the Big South Conference.
A lack of energy early in the game affected the Bulldogs offensively by challenging their accuracy inside the arc. The Bulldogs only shot 23 percent inside the arc during the first half versus the Highlanders’ 51 percent.
“We have got to start the game with more urgency,” said Brenda Kirkpatrick, UNCA’s head coach. “This wasn’t a good game for us.”
The Highlanders edged the Bulldogs early in the first half shooting 15-29 for field goal points, while the Bulldogs were unlucky, only shooting 7-30 for field goal points.
“They got going early, so we had to go to zone defense, and that shifted our game plan a little bit with them hitting shots early,” Kirkpatrick said.
Radford’s high-pressure defense denied their fourth straight opponent to shoot more than 30 percent on the floor for the entire game. UNCA ended the game shooting 26 percent on the floor.
“I thought Radford did a good job at setting the tone for the entire game,” Kirkpatrick said.
The Highlanders dominated the boards earning 43 total rebounds against the Bulldogs 29 total rebounds. Radford’s Ayana Avery and Kermisha Clark led the team with six rebounds each.
“We knew we were going to have to out rebound them, play hard and really lock them up on defense and frustrate them,” said Paige Love, a sophomore guard. “Those were all our goals and we didn’t do any of them.”
The Highlanders bested the Bulldogs with 28 points in the pain, leaving the Bulldogs to trail behind with 16 points in the paint.
“We can’t come out like that and expect to win,” Love said. “We needed this one and we didn’t get it. We have to find a way and bounce back from this one.”
For the Bulldogs, this was the fourth tough loss since their win against Charleston Southern Buccaneers in late January.
“We just didn’t have that energy on defense like we usually do,” said Shonese Jones, a junior guard.
According to Love, the lack of communication on the court prevented the Bulldogs from accomplishing many of their goals for the game.
Three of Radford’s players contributed double-digit points. Aisha Foy led with 14 points and seven assists, Breshara Gordon added 11 points and Kermisha Clark trailed with 10 points. Foy was also 6-6 in free throws made and Clark was 4-5.
According to Kirkpatrick, one of the focuses coming into the game was containing Radford’s leading scorer Ayana Avery, who averages 14 points per game.
The Highlanders continued their high intensity into the second half gaining a 21-point lead within the first 12 minutes; however, the Bulldogs’ change of pace began late in the second half when Jeanie Buckner made a 3-point shot with six minutes left in the game.
“I felt like we picked up our urgency too late. We should have done that from the start of the game,” Jones said.
Jones led the Bulldogs with 14 points and five rebounds, Tiana Knuckles added 10 points and Leah Wormack trailed with eight points.
The Bulldogs fought back against the Highlanders forcing 22 turnovers resulting in 11 points.
“We wanted to create some turnovers to generate some easy offense from our defense,” Kirkpatrick said.
UNCA also made 13 steals to disrupt Radford’s play, nine of which occurred in the second half.
“If we don’t have energy, we aren’t going to communicate. We aren’t going to do those little things to make a big difference in the game,” Jones said.
According to Love, the Bulldogs will have to get back into attack mode in order to compete for their next win.
“We should linger on this game for a little bit because this one hurt,” Jones said. “We gave this to them.”
The Bulldogs will prepare for their next game against the Liberty Flames on Thursday Feb. 20 in the Vines Center.