ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Rachelle Coward scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Charleston Southern began the Fred Applin era with a season-opening 60-57 victory over UNC Greensboro in the Asheville Collegiate Invitational at Kimmel Arena on Saturday.
The Lady Bucs (1-0) turned the ball over 29 times but were able to hold off a comeback from the Lady Spartans (0-1) in the final minute.
UNCG was led by Lucy Mason with 17 points. Jarae Savage added 10 points for the Spartans.
CSU led by as many as 11 in the second half but the Spartans closed the gap to 58-57 on two inside baskets from Savage in the final minute of play. The second score came with eight seconds remaining.
The Lady Bucs worked the ball to D.J. Fowler who was fouled with seven seconds left. She sank both free throws to give CSU a 60-57 lead. A three-point attempt by Natalie Headley to tie the game, fell short as Erin Bratcher came down with the rebound for the Lady Bucs to give them the win.
Applin is in his first year as head coach of the CSU program as he took over for Julie Goodenough. He was relieved and happy with the victory.
"I told the team after the game that we can't win too many games turning the ball over 29 times, but we played hard for most of the game and found a way to get a win," stated Applin. "We preach defense and today our defense helped carry us through. And we got a nice game from Rachelle Coward. She hit some big shots throughout the day."
The Bucs struggled early as they had turnovers on six of their first seven possessions and had 12 turnovers at the second media timeout. UNCG led early 14-5 six minutes into the contest.
But then the CSU defense kicked in. The Lady Bucs held the Spartans scoreless for six minutes and went on a 16-0 run to grab a 21-14 lead. Coward led the run on the offensive side with nine points. UNCG went 0-for-10 in that stretch from the field with four turnovers.
The Spartans responded with an 8-0 run to lead 22-21 before each team would grab leads in the final five minutes of the opening half. A Savage lay-up tied the game at intermission 28-28.
In the second half, treys from Bratcher and Coward triggered an 8-0 run to give the Bucs the lead for good at 36-28.
CSU led 52-44 with five minutes left but UNCG made another run to creep to 55-53 as Mason scored on a lay-up with 1:47 left.
Bratcher then hit a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down to give the Bucs some breathing room at 58-53 setting up the final minute of the game.
Charleston Southern plays its home opener Wednesday night against Southern Wesleyan at 7 p.m. UNC Greensboro hosts Radford on Tuesday at 7 p.m.