Chowan upsets 18th ranked UDC

Published 11:28 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

MURFREESBORO – Thanks to a late first-half spurt that gave them a lead they never relinquished, the Chowan University women’s basketball team scored one of the biggest wins in school history Saturday as the Hawks downed 18th-ranked NCAA Division-II women’s power the University of the District of Columbia, 70-52.

It was Chowan’s (9-15) first-ever win over a nationally ranked opponent in women’s hoops history. UDC had won 13 in a row.

Junior forward A.J. O’Banion came off the bench to lead the scoring with 15 points while sophomore Brittany Nicholson, who also didn’t start, had 12 points and four steals.

Junior Alicia McMorris finished with eight points and five assists including a big three-point shot early in the second half that stifled a UDC run. Redshirt freshman Taylor Hughes also had eight points and led Chowan with seven rebounds.

Lillian McGill led all scorers with 21 for UDC.

“We’d played UDC tough the last three times we faced them,” said fifth-year coach Pat Mashuda after the game, “and today our ladies stepped up and matched them very well.”

“We tried to keep people moving, keep people thinking,” said McMorris, “and I think that helped a lot.”

With the tightly-contested game tied 16-16 and less than nine minutes to play in the first half Chowan took the lead on an O’Banion layup. A Ransheda Jennings three-pointer pushed the bulge to five before the Firebirds reeled off four straight free throws to cut the deficit to one.

Three quick Chowan fouls put UDC in the bonus at the foul line, but the Firebirds missed a 1-plus-1 opportunity and Chowan quickly seized advantage.

Leading 25-23, with a minute and a half to play, Chowan got a Demicka McMahan layup, two free throws from O’Banion and later a steal and layup from O’Banion to post an eight point lead at halftime, 31-23.

UDC opened the second half erasing Chowan’s lead with a 12-4 run and tied the game at 35-all in the first four-and-a-half minutes. But on Chowan’s next possession, Aquanette Simmons screened for McMorris and her only three-point field goal of the game gave the Hawks the lead for good, 38-35.

Over the next six minutes Chowan had a run of their own, keyed by a pair of Nicholson steals converted to easy layups and after a UDC technical foul, Maddie Cummings made a pair of free throws to give Chowan its first double-digit lead.

The Hawks built that bulge to as many as 21 twice and never led again by less than 18 points as they scored in their motion offense and made 13-of-19 foul shots and their stingy man-to-man defense forcing a total of 23 turnovers for the game. They coasted to their third win in a row and fourth in their last five games.

“Coach knows we’re going to make mistakes,” said a grinning Nicholson, “but if we’re going 100 percent while making those mistakes he can live with that.”

“They’re buying into what we’re doing,” added Mashuda. “A month ago we don’t respond like we did, but today we stepped it up and our aggressiveness and intensity raised it up a level.”

Chowan hosts Newport News Apprentice Wednesday night at the Helms Center, then hosts a national PINKZONE game in support of cancer awareness on February 21 in their Senior Night season-finale against Columbia Union of Maryland.