Dec. 19, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. - Western Carolina women's basketball (6-4) had its six-game winning streak snapped with a 73-69 loss at North Carolina Central (5-4) Thursday in McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium.
The Catamounts watched its 10-point, 39-29, lead erode in the second half. WCU gave up 44 points in the second half to North Carolina Central.
Western Carolina didn't seem to have an answer for the double-threat tandem of the Eagles' Jessica Freeman, who lead the game with 26 points, and Racquel Davis who had 21. The duo combined for 47 of North Carolina Central's 72 points.
Western Carolina connected on a season-high 11 three pointers but couldn't overcome the 33 trips to the free throw line North Carolina Central was awarded. The Eagles hit 23-of-33 from the charity stripe accounting for almost a third of its points in the game.
Western Carolina came out with a fire in the first half, led by the explosive play of senior guard Rena Wakama. The Raleigh, N.C. native scored 18 first half points and connected on four three pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
Wakama scored just three points in the second half and ended the contest with 21 points, just two shy of tying her career-high of 23. She was the first player this season to score 20 or more points.
Shauna Terry's lay-up, to open the second half, gave Western Carolina a 12-point, 41-29, advantage, its largest lead of the game. Freeman answered with a three-pointer for North Carolina Central and Terry struck again with a field goal. After Terry's bucket, the Eagles scored seven unanswered points to cut the Catamount lead to four, 46-42.
Western Carolina clung to its lead for most of the second half, even building its lead back to seven, 57-50 off a pair of free throws by Justin Taylor. However, North Carolina Central kept pressing and cut the Catamount lead to one three times before tying the game at 63 off a lay-up by Tiffany Gary.
Senior guard Hana Haden hit Western Carolina's 10th three-pointer in the game, with 2:05 remaining, to give WCU a 66-63 advantage. A jumper by Kyra Conerly and a 1-of-2 free throws by Davis tied the game at 66 with 1:07 remaining.
Davis struck again when she connected on a lay-up with 55 seconds left, giving North Carolina Central its first lead of the game, 68-66. The Eagles would not cough up the lead again. The Eagles outscored Western Carolina 5-3, in the final 30 seconds, to cling to the lead and the win.
North Carolina Central was 4-for-4 from the free throw line, in the final 14 seconds, to keep WCU at bay. Junior guard Justin Taylor hit a three-pointer, with three seconds left to slice the North Carolina lead to 71-69 but two made free throws by Gary kept the game out of reach for Western Carolina.
Three Western Carolina players scored in double figures paced by Wakama with 21. Taylor added a season-high 17 and Haden had 11.
Rebounds were even, at 35, with Western Carolina holding North Carolina Central to nine offensive boards. The Catamounts shot 43.9 percent from the field and the Eagles 46. North Carolina Central got 30 of its points inside the paint.
Western Carolina will take nine days off before returning to action on Dec. 28 at the Miami Holiday Tournament in Coral Gables, Fla. The Catamounts are scheduled to play New Mexico at 3 p.m. in the second game of the two-day tournament. Western Carolina will face either host Miami or Morgan State on Dec. 29.