HIGH POINT, N.C. - Ayana Avery's go-ahead three-pointer with 2:01 remaining highlighted No. 6 seed Radford's decisive 12-1 run as the Highlanders upset No. 3 seed Winthrop, 62-56, in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Advance Auto Parts Women's Basketball Championship Friday, March 9 at Millis Center on the campus of High Point University. Radford advances to Saturday's Semifinals and will play No. 2 High Point at 3:30pm on ESPN3 and SportSouth. It is the Highlanders' first Semifinal appearance since 2008.
Shortly before Radford's 12-1 surge, the Eagles had gone on a 23-4 run to turn a 16-point deficit into a 53-50 lead with 6:07 to play. However, Winthrop went more than six minutes without a made field goal as the Highlanders recovered to wrap up their win. The cold shooting summarized the Eagles' night, as Winthrop was held to 28.6 percent (20-of-70) field goal shooting.
Da'Naria Erwin Spencer paced the Highlanders (16-14) with 19 points, while Avery chipped in 13 points off the bench and Ashley Buckhannon added 11 markers for Radford. Winthrop's (18-13) Dequesha McClanahan topped all players with 28 points, 20 of which came in the second half. TaQuoia Hammick grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds for the Eagles, tying for the second-most ever in a Big South quarterfinal tilt. Teammate Taylor Calvert added 13 boards.
Radford fashioned an early 6-0 burst, taking an 8-3 lead on Erwin Spencer's jumper in transition at the 16:14 mark of the opening half. Winthrop got to within 12-10 with 13:12 remaining in the period, thanks to two free throws by Calvert. The Eagles went 6:30 between made field goals, during which time the Highlanders took their first double-digit advantage. Erwin Spencer made it 20-10 in favor of Radford with a jump shot at 10:52.
Winthrop countered with an 11-2 surge, cutting its deficit to 22-21 when Hammick scored on a second-chance hoop 5:46 before the half. But the Eagles could not reclaim the lead, as the Highlanders' Avery scored five points in 26 seconds to push the Radford advantage back to 27-21. The Eagles got no closer than four points for the remainder of the half, and the Highlanders took a 35-26 halftime lead after scoring the stanza's final five tallies.
Radford shot 42.9 percent (15-of-35) from the field in the first half, while holding Winthrop to 28.1 percent (9-of-32). The Highlanders' strong defensive effort in the opening 20 minutes also featured eight steals. Meanwhile, the Eagles owned a 26-20 rebounding edge before the intermission.
Erwin Spencer paced Radford with 10 first-half points, while Avery and Buckhannon chipped in eight markers apiece. McClanahan tallied eight points during the opening half to pace Winthrop's offensive attack. Teammate Calvert pulled down seven first-half rebounds.
Buckhannon got Radford started in the second half, hitting a three-pointer just four seconds in to extend the Highlander cushion to a dozen points, 38-26. The two teams then scored just four points each over the next 5:30, enabling the Highlanders to maintain their 12-point advantage. Radford used an 8-0 surge to build its lead to 46-30 on Avery's runner at the 13:52 mark.
McClanahan helped Winthrop quickly erase the deficit, scoring 13 points during a 23-4 run by the Eagles. Her baseline jumper at 7:05 gave the Eagles their first lead since 3-2 at 52-50. Winthrop remained in front until the 2:58 mark, when Erwin Spencer tied the score at 54-all on a jump shot. Less than a minute later, Avery gave the Highlanders the lead for good with her long-distance triple.
The Highlanders, who became the first No. 6 seed to win in the quarterfinals since Gardner-Webb in 2009, advance to the semifinal round for the first time under head coach Tajama Abraham Ngongba.
McClanahan set a quarterfinal record for field goal attempts with 28, making 11 of them.
Radford Head Coach Tajama Abraham Ngongba
"First of all, I'm really proud of my team's defensive efforts tonight. I think Winthrop is a wonderfully tremendous and talented 3-point shooting team and I thought we did a great job on having defensive coverage on their shooters and just really playing together as a team defensively with a lot of energy. I also felt defensively we got after it and had some key shots knocked down, had some people step up that typically 'take vacation' with us. I'm very proud of our efforts tonight."
Winthrop Head Coach Marlene Stollings
"Credit to Radford. I thought they played a very strong game tonight. We really struggled in the first half offensively and it kind of effected us defensively. They had a lead and we fought back 16, incredible come back, but missed some 'chippy's' there late and just couldn't overcome it at that point."