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Pioneers upset Division I UNC Greensboro, 71-69

Pioneers upset Division I UNC Greensboro, 71-69

GREENSBORO, N.C. --- Tusculum used a late 8-0 run to come away with a 71-69 upset victory over Division I UNC Greensboro in women's basketball action Tuesday at Fleming Gymnasium.

Greensboro-area natives Kasey Johnson (21 points), Sydney Wilson (18 points) and Callie Patterson (11 points) all reached double figures for the Pioneers. Johnson shot 9-for-13 from the field while Wilson went 4-for-9 from three-point range for Tusculum. The victory was the first for the Pioneers against a Division I opponent since a 59-51 victory at ETSU in an exhibition game on November 1, 2010.

The Spartans (4-8) shot 49.2 percent (29-for-59) from the field and had a 39-23 edge in rebounding over the Pioneers, but were undone by a 9-for-16 performance at the foul line and by 22 turnovers which Tusculum converted into 22 points. Alexus Willey led UNCG with 20 points before fouling out in the final minute, while Nadine Soliman had 19 points but missed the potential tying foul shots with less than a second left in the fourth quarter.

The Pioneers led 56-49 entering the fourth quarter, but three straight baskets by the Spartans tied the game at 59-59 with 7:34 to play. UNCG went ahead 61-60 on two foul shots from Willey with 6:00 left, but baskets from Martoria Patton and Johnson restored the lead for the Pioneers at 64-61 with just over five minutes to go. Tusculum's defense held UNCG without a point for four minutes as buckets from Patton and Johnson capped an 8-0 run and extended the Pioneer lead to 68-61 with 2:18 to play.

A layup by the Spartans' Cece Crudup broke the UNCG drought and cut the deficit to 68-63 with 2:02 left, and a basket from Soliman pulled the Spartans to within 68-65 with 1:24 remaining. A turnover by the Pioneers and an offensive foul by the Spartans led to the Pioneers tacking on a point on a free throw by Mia Long for a 69-65 lead with 36.2 seconds left. A third-chance putback by Willey resulted in a three-point play that quickly pulled UNCG within 69-68 with 25 seconds remaining.

Two missed free throws from the Pioneers with 18.4 seconds to play gave the Spartans a chance to take the lead, but Tusculum's Lovely Locklear came up with a block on a shot from Soliman, then made two foul shots with 4.9 seconds left to extend the Pioneer lead to 71-68. Needing a three-pointer to tie the game, Soliman was fouled in the act of shooting a three-pointer with 0.9 seconds remaining. Soliman made the first of three attempts, but came up short on the second try. A lane violation on the third attempt turned the ball over to the Pioneers, who inbounded the ball and ran out the clock.

Tusculum, which entered the game with an 8-3 record, trailed 19-6 midway through the first quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers from Patterson and Wilson helped the Pioneers pull within 19-12 with 2:34 left in the quarter. The Spartans went on top 24-16 on a layup by Brandi Fier with 1:29 left in the quarter, but a layup from Johnson and two free throws by Yolizma Cupidan helped the Pioneers close the first quarter trailing 24-20.

The Pioneers took their first lead of the game at 27-26 on a four-point play by Wilson with 7:10 to go in the second quarter, but a three-point play by the Spartans' Mangela Ngandjui put UNCG back on top 32-29 with 4:55 to go in the half. A three-pointer from Patterson was answered by baskets from the Spartans' Ije Ajemba and Willey, but Wilson came back with back-to-back threes to knot the game at 38-38 with 2:11 left in the half.

UNC Greensboro would carry a 42-40 lead into halftime, led by 13 points from Willey and 10 from Soliman. Wilson shot 6-for-11 from the field and had a game-high 17 points in the first half for Tusculum, with Johnson also in double figures with 12 points and three rebounds. Tusculum shot an even 50 percent (14-for-28) from the floor and hit 7-for-16 from three-point range in the opening half, while the Spartans sizzled from the field at 56.3 percent (18-for-32) as a team. UNCG had a 17-11 edge in rebounding in the first half, led by seven boards from Ajemba who also had seven points for the Spartans.

In the third quarter, Tusculum wrestled back the lead at 45-44 on a three-pointer by Johnson with 6:53 left, and would lead the rest of the game except for a brief UNCG one-point advantage midway through the final period. The Pioneers outscored the Spartans 7-1 over the final 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, as UNCG went 0-for-6 from the field with four turnovers to end the period. For the quarter, Tusculum outscored UNCG by a 16-7 margin as the Spartans shot just 3-for-12 from the floor in the period.

Overall, Tusculum shot 48.1 percent (26-for-54) from the field in the game, including 10-for-26 on three-pointers. Patterson was 3-for-6 from beyond the arc in 21 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers, whose reserves outscored the Spartans' substitutes by an 18-15 margin. UNC Greensboro faded to 40.7 percent (11-for-27) from the field in the second half, and finished the game at 49.2 percent (29-for-59) including 2-for-11 from three-point range.

Ajemba led all players with 12 rebounds for UNCG, and added nine points to come up just shy of a double-double. Ngandjui had seven points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench for UNCG, while Alexis Pitchford was held scoreless but had four rebounds and a game-high six assists for the Spartans.

Patton had four points and shared the team high in rebounds with Johnson at six for Tusculum. Cupidan finished with seven points and Long had three points, five assists and three steals in 23 minutes of action for the Pioneers. Tusculum had 11 steals off UNCG's 22 turnovers, with Wilson also coming up with three thefts for the Pioneers.

UNCG controlled the paint against Tusculum, outscoring the Pioneers 54-30 thanks to 15 points off 14 offensive rebounds. The game had eight ties and seven lead changes, with each team holding the lead for just over 17 1/2 minutes apiece.

Tuesday's game was an exhibition for Tusculum and the Pioneers cannot count the victory or statistics in its season record.

Tusculum will return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 3 when the Pioneers travel to Mars Hill to resume their South Atlantic Conference schedule. Game time will be at 6 p.m.

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