RICHMOND Va. – Senior guard Andrea Barbour poured in a game-high 23 points while classmate Courtney Hurt added 21, and the senior duo keyed VCU to a hard-fought 65-53 victory against UNC Wilmington Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
UNCW (8-6, 1-2 CAA) erased an 11-point second-half deficit and tied the score at 49-49 with 7:59 to go, but the Rams never relinquished the lead as Barbour and Hurt combined to score 14 points during a critical 16-4 run to close game.
VCU (9-5, 2-1 CAA) snapped its season-long two-game losing skid, while picking up its fourth straight home victory. The Rams have won 11 of the last 16 games against UNCW, including three in a row at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
"This was a really good win for us, especially coming off a tough loss on the road at James Madison [on Thursday]," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham. "I thought our kids responded with a great defensive effort today. I'm proud of the way our team pulled out a big win here at home."
Hurt (pictured, left), who tied VCU's all-time free throw record with a perfect 5-of-5 outing at the line, also grabbed 15 rebounds for the fourth straight game. Barbour added two assists and a game-high five steals, while freshman Aprill McRae (pictured, below) chipped in seven points, six rebounds, two blocks and a pair of steals off the bench.
VCU, which held a commanding 46-30 advantage on the glass, has outrebounded nine of its last 10 opponents. It was also the seventh time this year that the Rams have forced 20 turnovers on the defensive end.
"Our focus coming into today was really defending and rebounding," Cunningham said. "We had to do a great job on the glass and if you look at the final stats, we ended up winning by 16 on the boards. I thought we had a great defensive effort."
The Rams jumped out to a quick 9-2 advantage less than five minutes into the contest before UNCW scored 13 of the next 17 points and took its first lead at 15-13 on a jumper by Abria Trice with 10:13 showing.
Barbour put the Rams back in front on a layup with 7:51 left but the Seahawks scored on their next two possessions and held their largest lead of the game at 20-17.
Trailing by three at the seven-minute mark, the Rams settled in and closed the opening stanza on a 15-4 run and took a 32-24 advantage into the locker room. Barbour fueled the spurt, scoring 10 of her 14 first-half points.
VCU didn't let up coming out of the break and pushed its lead to 37-26 on 3-point play from Hurt with 18:01 left. However, the Seahawks began to chip away and eventually erased the 11-point deficit during a nine-minute stretch, and a traditional 3-point play from Karneshia Garrett knotted the score at 49-49 with 7:59 to go.
UNCW would never take the lead, though, as Barbour collected a steal and converted a fast break layup on the ensuing possession to put the Rams back in front for good. VCU then locked down on defense, holding UNCW to just one field goal the rest of the game.
"We struggled there during the middle of the half guarding the basketball, and they started to do a good job attacking the basket," Cunningham said. "Andrea came up with two big stops on defense and that was really the turning point that allowed us to get over the hump. We did a good job defensively and we had some kids step up and make some shots."
Tawanna Lee paced three UNCW players in double figure scoring with 14 points. Garrett added 13 to go along with seven rebounds and Alisha Andrews finished with 10.
VCU returns to the Verizon Wireless Arena on Jan. 11 against league rival Old Dominion at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN3. The Rams then hit the road for three straight beginning at William & Mary on Jan. 15.