Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Ebonee Dixon and the Wildcat defense coming up with one of their 10 steals against Puerto Rico-Bayamon, taken by Frank Stallworth.
NEWARK, Del. - - The Wilmington University women's basketball team held off a hard charging Puerto Rico-Bayamon down the stretch, 70-67, to pick up their first victory of the 2016-17 season on Thursday night at the WU Athletics Complex in the team's home opener.
The Wildcats (1-3) outscored the Cowgirls (2-2), 18-11, in the third quarter to open the fourth and final frame with a 10-point lead, 52-42, but the Wildcats needed to hold off the Cowgirls down the stretch for their first victory of the season.
Out of the halftime break, the Cowgirls closed the gap to as few as 40-38 with 5:07 to play in the quarter, but it was all Wilmington from there. Jocelyn Rodriguez started a 6-0 run with a jumper before Ebonee Dixon and Macy Robinson followed with back-to-back bucket to reopen a 46-38 lead.
Dixon drove to the hole for a layup with 28 seconds left before LaShyra Williams closed out the third quarter with another layup at the buzzer, moving into the final quarter with a 52-42 lead.
Back-to-back layups from Jamiere Jefferies and Robinson extended the Wildcats' lead to the largest of the game at 58-43 with 8:02 remaining in regulation.
Trailing by 14, the Cowgirls rattled off eight straight points to claw back into the contest, 60-54, to 4:54 to play. An old fashioned three-point play by Dixon sparked a 7-0 run for the Wildcats to put the lead up to 13-points. But the Cowgirls refused to go away in the fourth quarter, again responding with an 11-0 lead to climb all the way back to within a single bucket, 67-65, with 28 seconds to play.
Rodriguez sank one of her two free throws and the Cowgirls marched right down the court to quickly score and get the game to within a single point, 68-67. Dixon sank the second of two free throws for a two-point lead, but UPR-Bayamon missed the game-tying layup with six seconds showing on the clock.
Dixon stepped to the line but missed the first free throw before sinking the second to again push the lead to three, 70-67. A last ditch effort by the Cowgirls was off the mark from the corner as the buzzer sounded.
Turnovers were the difference on Thursday, as the Wildcats forced the Cowgirls into 18 turnovers, picking off 10 steals in the contest. The Wildcats only turned the ball over 12 times, the fewest of the short season so far. The turnovers turned into an 18-12 advantage for the Wildcats in points off turnovers.
Dixon led the Wildcats with 19 points while also grabbing six rebounds and picking up two steals. Robinson added 15 points, a team high nine rebounds, two steals, and two assists, shooting 7-of-12 from the floor for the night. Jasmine Lee came off the bench to score 10 points for the Wildcats, while Williams and Rodriguez each dished out dished out five assists.
The Wildcats couldn't stop the leading scoring for the Cowgirls, as Daneishka Canales poured in 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting, hitting three three-pointers.
The Wildcats have eight days off before returning to action when they head to Virginia State University for a Thanksgiving Tournament. The team will face Shaw University on Friday before taking on the host Virginia State on Saturday.