The University of West Georgia women’s basketball coach saw his squad jump out strong from the opening tip, only to stumble into the locker room trailing Gulf South Conference rival Valdosta State by a 28-27 margin at the break on Thursday evening at The Coliseum.
But the Wolves blew the game open with a 14-0 run to ignite the second-half rally en route to a 67-44 victory, improving to 8-4 on the year and 2-2 in league play behind a 40-16 effort over the Lady Blazers (9-4, 2-3) during the final 20 minutes.
An aggressive UWG offense got to the free-throw line 21 times in the second half — knocking down 16 of them — after a 2-of-9 clip from the charity stripe in the opening half.
“The thing that this team has got to figure out is we just get into streaks. Like free throws, for instance. We go 2-for-9 [in the first half] and then the second half, we can’t miss. It’s the same thing offensively. We start out the first eight minutes of the game, I thought we were playing great. I look up at we’re up seven. I really felt like we were up more than that. Then all of a sudden, we can’t score,” Groninger said.
“We’re so inconsistent. We’ve just got to iron that out. But I’m definitely pleased with the effort. And, more importantly, pleased with the result.”
The Wolves placed four scorers in double-figures offensively, led by a huge night from Villa Rica High School product JaDechia Hill.
The sophomore forward poured in a game-high 20 points, connecting on 8-of-13 attempts from the field and a 4-of-6 clip from the free-throw line, while pulling down six rebounds and recording three steals. Hill was joined in double figures by Shakiyla McLin (12 points, three steals), Mone’ Peoples (12 points) and Brittany Johnson (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals).
“I thought JaDechia was outstanding. I surely thought she had more than six rebounds. She got every loose ball. But then again, another key, important part of our team is a kid like Shakiyla McLin takes five shots and scores 12 points. I thought she was outstanding,” Groninger said. “We’ve got to have balance. We’re not a one-man show like we’ve been in the last two years. So for us to be effective, we’ve got to have at least four in double figures.”
The other major contributing factor to the ‘W’ was the defensive effort, holding VSU to just seven field goals and 16 points in the second half, including keeping point guard Kourtnee Williams scoreless during that time. And even though Brittney Nelson had a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double, it wasn’t enough to keep the Lady Blazers within striking distance down the stretch. VSU didn’t score a field goal in the final 7:32 of the ball game.
“We did a good job on [Williams], I thought. She got seven [in the first half] and she didn’t score in the second half. They only took 49 shots and we took 57. We turned them over a lot. They had 23 turnovers to our 10, so there’s 13 more possessions. You know, Nelson is a good player. She gets 14 on us and I felt like we did a good job,” Groninger said.
West Georgia will look to continue its strong homestand on Saturday afternoon when it plays host to West Florida in a 2 p.m. matinee.
“One’s down now. The players —— they get to live in the moment — they get to enjoy this the rest of the night. We’re focused on West Florida and trying to get ready to play them in a Saturday afternoon game,” Groninger said.