Wild Blue Hither

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FARMVILLE – Though it was only 40 minutes on the game clock, the finish for the Longwood University women's basketball team in its home opening 68-63 victory over Air Force sure looked a lot different than the start.

The Lancers were as hot in the second half as they were cold in the first. Longwood trailed 29-21 at the break, and outscored the visiting Falcons 47-34 in the second half to take the five-point victory.

“We weren't comfortable offensively in the first half, said LU head coach Bill Reinson. “Chelsea [Coward] got two quick fouls, and that left us with one senior and a bunch of freshmen on the floor. It's different when you have two seniors out there to guide three freshmen, but with just one, the group looked a little lost.”

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Coward may as well have walked into the gym with two fouls. She drew her second with 13:25 left in the first half. Air Force out-scored the hosts 13-4 over the next five minutes to take an 18-8 lead on a jumper by Alicia Leipprandt with 7:57 left.

The Falcons extended their lead to 22-10 with six minutes left in the half, and led 25-16 with two minutes to play, before Crystal Smith buried a three-pointer with 1:56 left to cut the AFA (0-2) lead to 25-19.

The two teams seemed to change more than ends of the floor at the break. Longwood (1-1) opened the half with a 10-0 run to take a 31-29 lead on a jumper by Smith with 15:17 remaining. The run came despite Coward drawing her third and fourth fouls in the first 2:05 of the second half.

“At halftime, I told them that there was nothing they could do about the first half. Even though we didn't play that well, we were only down eight, and still within striking distance. There was a big difference in intensity in the second half. Our seniors stepped up, and everyone seemed to work well with one-another.”

Smith heated up in the second half. She had 15 of her game-high 23 points after the break. Back-to-back three-pointers by Raven Williams put the Lancers up 37-34 with 13:05 left, and pushed LU's lead to 39-36 on a runner with 12:09 remaining.

A three-pointer by Daeisha Brown gave Longwood the lead for good at 46-43 at the 8:30 mark.

Longwood took its largest lead of the game on a three-pointer by Coward with a minute remaining. Air Force chipped away at the Lancers' lead over the final 60 seconds with three three-pointers. A three by Cherae Medina pulled AFA to within four points at 67-63 with 16 seconds left, but after a Longwood turnover, Medina missed a second three-point attempt and double dribbled after grabbing the rebound, which pretty much ended the Falcons' rally.

“We showed a lot of poise tonight,” said Reinson. “We got behind and didn't quit. We did the same thing in our loss at Richmond. We were down by over 20 points, and came back to cut that game to three possessions. It's great to see considering that we really don't have a lot of time to play together before the season begins.”

In addition to Smith's game-high 23 points, she also earned a game-high six assists. Coward just missed on a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.

“She did that in only 16 minutes,” said Reinson. “Imagine what that could've been if we would've been able to have her out there for 30 minutes.”

Khalilah Ali just missed on a double-double with nine points and ten rebounds, while Raven Williams had 13 points.

Air Force was led by Dymond James, who had a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Leipprandt had 14 points, while Cherae Medina had ten.

Longwood shot 32.8 percent (21-64) from the field, including 44.4 (4-9) from three-point range, but was 15-29 (51.7 percent) and 8-15 (53.3 percent) in the second half. The Lancers were 14-26 (53.8 percent) from the foul line on the evening. AFA out-rebounded the Lancers 50-40, and held a 17-9 advantage on the offensive boards.

“That was a great crowd behind us tonight,” said Reinson. “I'm glad they stuck around through our slow start. Fans want to see two things when they come out. They want to see exciting basketball and want to see Longwood win. We didn't quite do that in the first half, but I think we made up for it in the second. If we can keep playing like we did in the second half, the fans will keep coming.”

Fresh off their come-from-behind victory, Longwood will travel to North Carolina State on Thursday night for a 7 p.m. game in Raleigh at historic Reynolds Coliseum.