Two days before it plays in the Sun Belt Championship Game as the East Division's…
The App State women’s basketball team opened the 2023-24 campaign with a 71-65 victory over UNC Greensboro at the Holmes Convocation Center on Monday.
“We had two starters from last year out there in terms of Emily Carver and Faith Alston, and so we had different players in different roles and we needed to settle into the game,” said head coach Angel Elderkin. “I love the fight of our team. They didn’t get discouraged by the ball not going in the basket, we continued to fight.
“Another thing that I’m super proud of is just our rebounding. Anybody who’s watched our program in the last year knows that that has been something that has been really hurting us. UNCG came in as one of the top-40 offensive rebounding teams in the country, and they returned all those players,” said Elderkin. “We held them in the second half without an offensive rebound and that’s just a testament to the fight and the toughness of our team. We’re not the biggest team, but we’ve got a lot of grit and we’ve got a lot of scrap to us. It feels good just to get one game under our belt together.”
Four Mountaineers scored double figures, led by senior Faith Alston, who netted 15 points. In her debut in the Black and Gold, junior J’Mani Ingram tallied 13 points, sinking three of four from the line and netting five from the field. Junior Emily Carver and senior Taylor Lewis pulled down 10 rebounds. Carver also netted 11 points for her first double-double of the season.
App State recorded 13 points off the bench and shot 67.7% from the charity stripe. App State also tallied 22 second chance points to UNCG’s 12.
In the first quarter, UNCG jumped to an early 8-0 lead. The Mountaineers steadily chipped away at the Spartans’ lead with free throws, until Lewis drilled a trey to cut UNCG’s lead to 12-9. Despite a pair of free throws from Carver, UNCG took a 16-11 lead at the end of the quarter.
Ingram came out hot in the second quarter, driving to the hoop for back-to-back layups that brought App State within one. The Mountaineers met the Spartans at 18 all after sophomore Rylan Moffitt made a layup in the paint and took the lead for the first time after an Ingram free throw. UNCG was quick to pull away, building off a 7-0 run to take a 29-21 lead. The Black and Gold steadily chipped away at the deficit until Ingram drilled a jumper at the buzzer to bring App State within two at the half (37-35).
The Mountaineers found their stride in the third quarter. After a Lewis layup in the paint tied the score 41-41, a jumper from sophomore Alexis Black pushed App State ahead, 43-41. Junior Zada Porter extended App State’s lead to 45-41 with a layup of her own. The Mountaineers stayed a step ahead of the Spartans as Porter sank a pair of free throws and Alston executed a three-point play to extend the lead to 50-46. UNCG met App State at 50 all with a minute left in the quarter, but Alston was quick to get past the UNCG defense, making it to the hoop for a layup. With nine seconds left in the quarter, Alston landed a jumper that put App State up 54-50.
The Mountaineers’ momentum carried into the fourth quarter as Moffitt tallied the first four points of the period, drilling two freebies and driving to the hoop for a layup. Shortly after, Carver put App State up by 10 with a layup in the paint. Carver drilled her sole trey of the game, which Ingram followed up with a layup to keep the Mountaineers ahead, 65-52. App State jumped ahead to 67-53 after Alston broke through the defense to get to the hoop. Carver sealed the Mountaineers’ 71-65 victory with a free throw.
The Mountaineers will host Ohio at 2 p.m. on Saturday for Youth Day. Saturday’s game is also the first of two MAC/SBC Challenge games. The second MAC/SBC Challenge game will be determined in January and is slated for Feb. 10.