WILMINGTON, North Carolina – A furious comeback in the final six minutes fell just short for the UNCW women’s basketball team on Friday night as senior forward Samantha DeFreese poured in 26 points to power Northeastern to a 72-66 victory over the Seahawks in a Colonial Athletic Association action at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks stand 7-16 overall and 3-9 on the season after closing out a three-game homestand. The Huskies own a 9-14 mark and 4-8 in league action.
DeFreese, a 6-0 veteran from Bergenfield, N.J., led all scorers with her 26 points, making 10-of-13 field goals and tossing in all six of her free throw attempts. Freshman forward Gabby Giacone added 14 points, senior guard Kazzidy Stewart chipped in 13 and Claudia Ortiz had 12.
Senior guard Shatia Cole anchored four Seahawks in double digits with 18 points. Junior guard Jasmine Steele collected 17 points, while sophomore center Rebekah Banks bucketed 11 and sophomore guard Madison Raque wound up with 10.
The Seahawks shot 38.1 percent on the night, connecting on 24-of-63 from the field and 9-of-11 at the charity stripe. The Huskies made 40.9 percent on 27-of-66 tries and 13-of-17 at the free throw line.
In the first of two meetings with the Huskies in a nine-day span, UNCW shot 50 percent and drained 6-of-8 trey attempts to build a 41-38 lead at halftime before the Huskies staged a major rally in the third quarter. Led by Giacone, NU used a 19-3 spurt in the quarter to gain separation and then held off the Seahawks at the end.
Cole opened the third quarter with a trifecta to extend UNCW’s margin to 44-38, but NU responded with seven straight points over 3:11 to regain the lead, 45-44, and after a triple by Steele at 4:28, NU went on another tear, closing out the quarter with a 12-0 run for a 57-47 cushion.
NU bumped the cushion to 14 points, 61-47, on a layup by Stewart at 7:09 when the Seahawks made their move. UNCW scored 11 of the next 14 points to pull within 63-58 when Jordan Henry, who grabbed 10 rebounds on the night, sank a pair of free throws with 2:09 remaining.
UNCW close the gap to 68-66 on a conventional three-point play by Banks with 48 seconds remaining, but Francesca Sally scored on a spin move in the low post with 22 seconds on the clock to raise the lead to 70-66 and the Seahawks ran out of time.
Northeastern came out of the gates clicking on all cylinders and led, 13-2, just four minutes into the contest. After the two clubs traded buckets to open the game, the Huskies reeled off 11 straight points, capped by a layup from DeFreese at 6:03. NU then took a 24-18 advantage after the first stanza.
The Seahawks dialed long distance to get back into the contest, however, and drained five of their first six three-point attempts to climb within 29-27 with 9:45 left in the second quarter. UNCW then claimed its first lead of the game, 37-36, when Henry sank a jumper along the left baseline with 3:34 left in the half.
After the Huskies grabbed the lead briefly, the Seahawks scored the final four points of the first half and took a 41-38 advantage into intermission after Cole converted a steal and layup just before the end of the period.
The Seahawks return to the floor on Sunday when they travel to Philadelphia to take on Drexel in a 1 p.m. start at the Daskalakis Center in Philadelphia. The Huskies travel up the road to play Elon on Sunday at 2 p.m.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks outscored the Huskies, 19-15, in the fourth quarter…UNCW had 13 fast break points…There were three ties and six lead changes in the game…Shatia Cole and Jasmine Steele each dished out five assists…NU scored 40 points in the paint…The Seahawks had just 11 turnovers…NU leads the all-time series, 10-8…The teams play again on Sunday, Feb. 21, in Boston.