WILMINGTON,NC (UNCW sports release)– Junior forward Anna Freeman led five players in double figures with 16 points as Appalachian State pulled away from UNCW late to earn the win, 79-73, in a Women’s National Invitational Tournament first round matchup Thursday at Trask Coliseum.
The Mountaineers improved to 26-6 and advanced to play N.C. State in the second round of the WNIT on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum. The Seahawks’ season came to a close with the loss at 20-13 after notching their second consecutive 20-win season for the first time in school history.
Freshman guard Katie Mallow tallied 13 points for ASU, while junior guard Courtney Freeman and senior guard Chakeitha Weldon added 10 markers apiece. Junior forward Kelsey Sharkey came off the bench to contribute a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Mountaineers, who shot 52.5 percent from the floor.
Sophomore guard Abria Trice paced UNCW offensively, scoring a game-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and grabbing a team-high seven boards. Junior forward Karneshia Garrett racked up 15 markers and junior guard Tawanna Lee scored 14 points.
With the score tied at 67-apiece and 3:37 remaining, two free throws by Anna Freeman sparked a 7-1 run which Weldon capped with 56 seconds remaining to give ASU a 74-68 advantage.
Sophomore guard Alisha Andrews then hit a trey at the 41-second mark to trim the lead to three, 74-71, but the Mountaineers got four free throws and a fast break layup from Sharkey in the final seconds to keep the Seahawks at bay.
UNCW missed its first four field goal attempts to start the contest, allowing ASU to grab an early 8-2 lead off a layup from freshman forward Maryah Syndor at the 16:47 mark.
Jessica Freeman sparked the Seahawks to life, notching UNCW’s first two field goals on back-to-back possessions to cut the Mountaineers’ advantage to 8-6 with 16:07 left.
After a trey from Mallow, the Seahawks rattled off a 10-2 run to take a 16-13 lead off a fast break bucket from Trice for two of her 16 first half points at the 12:13 mark.
The teams battled back-and-forth for the next seven minutes, with five ties and four lead changes occurring in the span as both squads looked to pull away.
With 3:53 left in the half and the score knotted at 27-all, Trice drained a trey to key a 13-4 run that gave UNCW its largest lead of the game, 40-31, when Trice capped the spurt with 1:01 remaining. A three-pointer by ASU junior guard Raven Gary with 36 seconds left concluded the first half scoring as the Seahawks held a 40-34 halftime lead.
UNCW still led by eight points, 48-40, with 17:33 left to play, but ASU climbed back into the contest with a 15-3 run spanning the next 5:31. Weldon capped the rally at the 12:02 mark with a fast break lay-in, putting the Mountaineers in front, 55-51.
The Seahawks battled back, eventually tying the game at 67-all with 3:52 remaining on a basket from junior forward Ayoola Weaver, but ASU pulled away down the stretch to advance.