The WCU women’s basketball squad beat Furman 66-58 Saturday night at the Ramsey Center for the first time since 1996 to end a 12-game losing streak to the Paladins. Monday night, Davidson shot 52 percent from the field to beat the Lady Cats 83-59 in Belk Arena.
In Davidson, the game started evenly, as the Lady Wildcats held a slim 14-11 lead over Western Carolina (12-7, 5-6) after seven minutes of play. However, Davidson (7-11, 4-6) then gained control of the contest, scoring nine straight as part of a 14-2 run that saw the lead climb to 15.
The Lady Wildcats then ended the half on a separate 14-2 run and went into the locker room with a cozy 44-22 lead.
The second half saw more of the same for Davidson, as they were able to push the lead to 31 with 13:31 remaining in the game on the strength of two free throws by Robyn Flewelling.
Western then finally began to show signs of life, putting together a 20-9 run to pull the game to within 15 at 72-57 with just under four minutes left in the game.
However, WCU was outscored 11-2 the rest of the way to fall 83-59. The Lady Wildcats made 52 percent of their shots, including 60 percent (12-of-20) from the three-point line.
The game was the fourth straight in which Davidson, one of the hottest teams in the conference, shot over 50 percent from the field.
Senior center Laura Echols scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Lady Catamounts in both categories. The Conyers, Ga., native, who leads the Southern Conference in scoring and stands third in rebounding, also snagged three steals to lead WCU. Sophomore forward Janetta Heggins added ten points as the only other Lady Cat in double figures.
Head coach Beth Dunkenberger knew that her squad simply ran into a team that was playing very well.
“They (Davidson) could not miss,” she said. “They hit some really good shots. And on the flipside of that, we did not play well at all.”
Saturday night, Western finally lifted the monkey off of its back against Furman (11-8, 6-4), winning for the first time in their last 13 efforts, 66-58 in the Ramsey Center.
Western never trailed in the first half, but the teams traded shot for shot as they tied three times in the first eight minutes and stood at 12-12.
Echols then put back a miss by freshman forward Miranda Long with just over eight minutes left to play in the half to cap a 9-0 run by Western Carolina and give them a 21-12 lead.
Refusing to yield, the Lady Paladins put together a 12-4 run over the final 6:16 to cut the lead to one at halftime, 30-29.
Western held the lead or a share of it throughout the second half as well. Furman did manage to keep the game close, however, as the Lady Cat lead was no larger than six until the final two minutes of play.
WCU was solid down the stretch, hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the final three minutes to ice the victory.
Freshman forward Jennifer Gardner had career highs in both scoring and rebounding, with 18 and 11 respectively. The Norcross, Ga., native was 6-of-9 from the field and hit all six free throws, as well as grabbing five of her rebounds on the offensive end.
Echols added 14 points and seven rebounds to go along with a block and three steals.
Dunkenberger feels the win did many positive things for her team heading into the conference tournament.
“It (the win) goes far for our confidence that we beat a team that has been so successful in the Southern Conference over the past few years,” she said. “It was a good conference win, and it’s even better that we got the monkey off of our back.”
After playing Savannah State tonight in a non-conference game in the Ramsey Center at seven, the team will travel to Spartanburg, S.C., to take on Wofford. Western is just 1-3 on the road in the conference this season.
Dunkenberger feels this record attests to the great play of other teams when the Lady Cats play away from home.
“I think it speak to how tough the Southern Conference is,” she said. “To be successful, you have to be able to defend your home court and teams have done a good job of that this year.”