– The North Georgia women’s basketball team suffered
their first league loss of the year Saturday afternoon, traveling
to Columbus State University and watching the Cougars pull away
late for the 86-76 victory over the Lady Saints at the Lumpkin
Center in Peach Belt Conference action.
North Georgia has now been defeated in three of their last four contests, falling back to the .500 mark once again at 5-5 on the year, while dropping to 1-1 in the Peach Belt Conference’s West Division. Columbus State gets back on track, now winners of six of their last seven games, the Cougars improve to 7-4 overall and 1-0 in the league’s West Division.
The Lady Saints opened the game red hot from the field, going 13-21 from the floor for a sizzling 62 percent in the first half, while also connecting on 10 of 13 free throws, but never managed to lead by more then two points, a margin North Georgia held at two different times in the first period.
With the Cougars holding a four-point lead at 36-32 with 1:28 remaining until intermission, the Lady Saints answered with scores on two straight possessions, the last two points coming on Ieshia Alexander's two free-throws with four seconds left to tie the game.
CSU’s Nakita Holt then pushed the ball up the floor and knocked down an off-balanced runner and was fouled with 0.2 seconds remaining. Holt drained the ensuing free throw and the Cougars managed to take a 39-36 advantage into halftime.
In the second half, Columbus State opened on a 13-1 run to race out to 15-point lead at 52-37, an advantage that turned out to be the largest of the game. The Cougars held North Georgia without a field for nearly the first five minutes of the second period until Janyce Ealey ended the drought with a jumper at the 15:22 mark.
The Lady Saints would fight back and cut the CSU lead to just six points with 10:51 remaining as Tiffany Marlow hit her only three-point attempt of the afternoon to make it a 58-52 Cougar lead.
CSU would answer with a 9-2 run of their own however and push their lead right back to 15 points at 74-59 with just 5:15 remaining. North Georgia pulled to within seven points twice in the final three minutes, but the Cougars would hold off the Lady Saints for the 10-point victory.
Four North Georgia players finished in double figures, led by 17 points from Whitney Randolph who went 6-10 from the field and 5-7 from the free throw line and pulled down six rebounds. Ealey and Alexander tallied 16 points apiece, while Marlow equaled her highest point total of the season with 11 points in 25 minutes of action.
Phebe Smith ran the show for the Cougars, scoring a game-high 30 points on 11-15 shooting from the floor and an 8-12 performance from the charity stripe. The senior also pulled down 13 rebounds for a double-double. Ashley Stafford chipped in 13 points, while Monique Jefferson tallied 11, and Renee Jackson added 10.
North Georgia shot 55.3 percent from the field, 25.0 percent from long range, and 76.7 percent from the free throw line, while Columbus State was 46.5 percent from the floor, 17.6 percent from behind the arc, and 73.9 percent from the charity stripe.
The Lady Saints committed 24 turnovers to just 12 for Columbus State, while the Cougars held a slight rebounding advantage of 34-31.
North Georgia returns to action on next Wednesday evening with a trip to new league member the University of Montevallo. The Lady Saints will take on the Falcons for the 18th time in school history as tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 Eastern Standard Time.