Free-firing Freeman lights up WCU for 26 in NCCU win

Dec. 19, 2013 @ 06:29 PM

N.C. Central extended its defense in the second half and disrupted some of the looks Western Carolina got in the opening 20 minutes, earning the Lady Eagles a 73-69 win at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium on Thursday.

NCCU’s Jessica Freeman scored a game-high 26 points and teammate Racquel Davis’ double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) gave the visiting Catamounts a lot to deal with.

“We had a tough time guarding them,” Western Carolina coach Karen Middleton said.

Gun-shy has never been used to describe Freeman, a redshirt senior who transferred from UNC Wilmington with a reputation as a cold-blooded shooter.

Freeman hasn’t been passive about putting up shots in her first season with NCCU. Getting them to go in has been the issue.

Yet Freeman said it never crossed her mind to stop shooting, not with her teammates telling her that they still were going to get the ball to her.

“If you have that from your team, from your coach, you can’t help but keep shooting,” Freeman said.

Freeman was 10 of 16 from the field, making good on 3 of 6 3-pointers Thursday.

NCCU coach Vanessa Taylor said the volume of shot attempts from Freeman wasn’t the thing. Taylor said she challenged not just Freeman but also the rest of team members to be more selective about their shots, to be more patient about making extra passes and setting ball screens.

Western Carolina (6-4) took a 39-29 lead into halftime. Rena Wakama was having a monster game for the Catamounts with 18 points, four rebounds and two assists in the first half.

NCCU’s stepped-up defense in the second half appeared to cause problems for Wakama, who scored just three more points after halftime, adding one more assist and two more rebounds.

“Defensively, in the first half, we just did not do a good job of challenging the perimeter,” Taylor said.

Freeman came out after halftime and shot the Eagles into contention with two early 3s for 5-4 NCCU.

It was anybody’s game after a late media timeout, Western Carolina hanging on to a 62-61 lead with 3:57 to go.

The teams emerged from their benches and struggled to get a basket until NCCU’s Tiffany Gary bounced a shot off the glass for the go-ahead score.

Western Carolina guard Hana Haden snatched the lead back for the Catamounts with a 3.

NCCU’s Khyra Conerly hit a short jumper before Davis tied the game with a free throw with 1:06 to go.

Davis kept getting fouled on defensive rebounds, allowing her to pad NCCU’s lead with free throws. She was 11 of 15 from the foul line.

Middleton said all of those free-throw attempts from Davis told a story of what she was doing on the floor to tip the scale in NCCU’s favor.

 

NCCU 73, W. CAROLINA 69

WESTERN CAROLINA (6-4) — Rena Wakama 8-14 1-2 21; Justin Taylor 5-12 3-4 17; Hana Haden 4-7 0-0 11; Shauna Terry 4-5 1-2 9; Makensey Campbell 1-5 3-4 5; Lindsay Simpson 1-4 0-0 2; Alex Abraham 1-2 0-0 2; Kristen Lyon 1-4 0-1 2; Brianne Mack 0-0 0-0 0; Erika Joseph 0-1 0-0 0; Ali Lane 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 8-13 69.

N.C. CENTRAL (5-4) — Jessica Freeman 10-16 3-4 26; Racquel Davis 5-10 11-15 21; Khyra Conerly 3-7 2-4 8; Tiffany Gary 1-4 3-6 5; Rachel Williams 2-2 0-0 5; Tisha Dixon 1-4 2-2 4; Alexus Hynes 1-6 2-2 4; Morgan Jones 0-1 0-0 0; Monique Whaley-Briggs 0-0 0-0 0; Shiana Carrington 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 23-33 73.

Western Carolina   39     30 — 69
N.C. Central     29     44 — 73

3-point goals — WCU 11-31 (Taylor 4-9; Wakama 4-9; Haden 3-6; Simpson 0-3; Lane 0-1; Campbell 0-3), N.C. Central 4-9 (Freeman 3-6; Williams 1-1; Hynes 0-1; Jones 0-1). Fouled out — WCU, Terry; NCCU, None. Rebounds — WCU 35 (Taylor 6; Wakama 6), NCCU 35 (Davis 11). Assists — WCU 17 (Taylor 7), NCCU 11 (Conerly 5). Total fouls — WCU 22, NCCU 13. Technical fouls — None. Att. — 122.