MEAC / Spartan Women / Sports

UNCW holds off NSU in season-opener, 64-56

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Jenny DeGraaf recorded a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds to lead UNC Wilmington to a 64-56 victory over Norfolk State in the season-opener for both teams Friday evening at Trask Coliseum.

The difference was the hot-shooting of host UNCW in the first quarter. The Seahawks used an 18-4 run over the final four minutes and 38 seconds of the quarter, taking a 28-12 lead into the second period.

“We came out nervous in the first quarter,” Norfolk State head coach Larry Vickers said. “They kept fighting and we won two of the final three quarters.”

Madison Raque added 14 points and Rebekah Banks grabbed 10 rebounds and scored nine points for the Seahawks (1-0). UNCW shot 57 percent in the first quarter, making six 3-pointers in the stanza.

Senior guards Dominique Harper and Jordan Strode led the way for the Spartans. Harper registered 14 points, five rebounds and two steals, while Strode, a St. Joe’s transfer, tallied a career-high 14 points, with three rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal.

“When Strode is playing well, she makes us a lot better,” Vickers said.

Trailing by 14 after three quarters (50-36), Norfolk State battled back to get to within eight, 63-55, with 1:41 left in the game. Gabrielle Swinson notched her sixth steal of the night and dished to Kayla Roberts for a fast-break layup, capping an 8-2 run to cut the NSU deficit to eight. It was the closest the Spartans had been since midway through the first quarter.

But that was as close as NSU could get. The teams made one free throw apiece the rest of the way.

After UNCW hit 6-of-10 from 3-point range in the opening quarter, the Spartans held the Seahawks to just 2-of-16 from behind the arc in the final three periods. NSU also forced 20 UNCW turnovers, thanks in part to 13 steals. Swinson (six) had nearly half of those by herself.

The Spartans, though, shot just 29.9 percent (20-of-67) from the floor.

“We have to play better on defense than we did in the first quarter,” Vickers said. “We have to trust that we will have each other’s backs.”

Harper added a career-high five rebounds while sophomore Alexys Long matched her career high in points, with nine. She had eight points in the first half. Kayla Robertschipped in with nine points and a team-high eight rebounds.

The Spartans’ next game will be Tuesday when they open the home portion of their schedule against St. Augustine’s. The game is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by the men’s basketball team hosting Elizabeth City State at approximately 8 p.m. at Echols Hall.

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