Shorthanded NCCU women fall at home to Winthrop
It just isn’t getting any easier for the winless N.C. Central Lady Eagles.
Winthrop came up from Rock Hill, S.C., Saturday and beat NCCU 63-44, shooting 46.2 percent from behind the 3-point line at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium.
NCCU’s cause wasn’t helped any by having just one available reserve on the bench.
The Eagles (0-12) played with a six-woman roster, down from the seven first-year NCCU coach Vanessa Taylor had to work with against No. 19 North Carolina on Wednesday in Chapel Hill. NCCU freshman Tisha Dixon suffered a mild concussion during the UNC game and didn’t play against Winthrop.
NCCU’s Montreshia Perry is under a doctor’s care and missed her second straight game, but she was on the bench, along with Dixon and a host of other Eagles in warm-ups.
Injuries prior to the start of the season left NCCU with just eight players tasked with rebounding from a 3-27 season that ended with coach Joli Robinson’s ouster.
NCCU point guard Tenika Neely said the 0-12 start does not feel like last season, when the Eagles’ had what she described as defeated mindsets. There’s more fight among the Eagles now, Neely said.
The mood in NCCU’s locker room varies, including anger, Neely said. She said she tries to keep her teammates balanced.
“You’ve got to have the right mood at the right time,” Neely said.
Frustrated might have been an apt description for the Lady Eagles who were on the floor against Winthrop.
NCCU shot 80 percent from the free throw line, topping Winthrop’s 71.4.
The rebounding total was exactly the same for both teams, with 15 offensive boards and 21 defensive grabs apiece.
Turnovers, steals and blocks were about the same for both squads.
And both teams took roughly the same number of shots — NCCU just couldn’t make as many as Winthrop did.
“We’re getting looks, but we aren’t able to finish,” Taylor said.
Defense is the thing, though, Taylor said.
The Eagles’ scouting report made it clear that Winthrop (5-4) could shoot the ball, but NCCU wasn’t getting out on the opposition’s shooters.
“We just felt like we gave them too many unchallenged looks, and they shot it well,” Taylor said. “We’re not going to play too many teams that are going to shoot 12 3s. They hit 12.”
Winthrop’s Diana Choibekova made 7 3s and led all scorers with 23 points.
NCCU attempted just two 3s and missed both.
There’s a reason NCCU doesn’t let it go from downtown very often.
“We shoot a very poor percentage,” Taylor said.
NCCU redshirt senior Chasidy Williams got off to another slow start but led her team with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
That was Williams’ second double-double of the season and the 12th of her career.
NCCU freshman Amber Neely matched her highest point total of the season with 11.
Taylor said the six NCCU players who were available to play didn’t enter the game using their limited numbers as a crutch.
“They weren’t talking about it. They weren’t focused on it,” Taylor said. “That’s the kind of culture we want to create.”
Winthrop coach Kevin Cook was impressed with the product Taylor put on the floor.
“They did a tremendous job coaching their team up,” Cook said. “They fought and scrapped and gave everything they had for the entire game. When you can do that, you know their coaching staff is doing things right. They’ve got a good nucleus.”
Taylor said she and her coaching staff will put in some work to build on that nucleus by recruiting during the Christmas holidays, when high school teams are competing in tournaments.
NOTES: Winthrop’s roster includes Zoe Vernon, a 6-1 freshman from Chapel Hill who played at Durham’s Carolina Friends School, where she averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks per game. Vernon injured her right knee in the spring and had surgery in May. She got on the floor for her first college game on Dec. 8, playing three minutes against St. Augustine’s.
“But then my knee got swollen, so I’m just taking a little time off so that it’ll get better, hopefully,” Vernon said.
Vernon did not play against NCCU.
Winthrop coach Kevin Cook is exploring the possibility of this season being a medical-redshirt year for Vernon, giving her another season of playing eligibility.
Cook said Vernon has a Monday medical appointment regarding the knee. “We just need to get her healthy,” Cook said. “Once she gets 100 percent healthy, she’s really going to help us.”