ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Jessica Freeman scored 24 points, while Khyra Conerly added 23 as North Carolina Central downed cold-shooting UNC Asheville 76-65 at Kimmel Arena Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles (2-2) led from start to finish in handing the Bulldogs (2-3) their first home loss of the season.
Asheville was led by freshman guard Ja’Da Brayboy with a career-high 16 points, while Shonese Jones finished with 11 points. Jeannie Buckner just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Leah Wormack had nine points, six rebounds and six blocked shots.
The Bulldogs shot .259 (7-of-27) from the field in the opening half and .358 (24-of-67) for the game.
Asheville went 1-of-12 from the field in the game’s first 10 minutes as NCCU sprinted to a 14-2 lead. The Eagles pushed the lead to 17 at 22-5 after Conerly hit two free throws at the 7:25 mark.
The Bulldogs crept to 27-18 on a lay-up from Brayboy with 3:30 left in the half. But the Eagles responded with a 12-2 run to end the half to race to a 39-20 lead at intermission. Freeman scored seven of NCCU’s points during the run.
North Carolina Central led by as many as 23 early in the second half on a tap-in by Tisha Dixon. The Eagles still led by 20 at 74-54 with 4:21 after two free throws from Connerly. Asheville made one more push to close to 76-65 on a lay-up from Tianna Knuckles with 1:06 remaining. The Bulldogs had a chance to get close on the next possession but could get no closer.
The visitors helped keep Asheville at bay with good free throw shooting as the Eagles went 21-of-28 from the charity stripe. Conerly was 11-of-13 from the line. She also collected seven rebounds.
NCCU held a 44-27 scoring advantage in the paint and outscored the Bulldogs 20-11 in fast-break points. Asheville’s bench made a big contribution on Saturday with a 30-11 scoring edge over the Eagles.
UNC Asheville is back at home Tuesday night when the Bulldogs host Bluefield at Kimmel Arena starting at 7 p.m.