Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ex-UVa. great Wendy Palmer getting it done at UNCG

Wendy Palmer
It's taken a couple of years, but it looks like Virginia hoops legend Wendy Palmer now has UNC Greensboro headed in the right direction.

The long-struggling Spartans picked up what should be a confidence-boosting road victory for their third-year head coach Wednesday night when they rallied from 12 points down in the final 10 minutes to top Norfolk State 73-66 at Echols Arena.

"This was a great win for our young team," said Palmer, who was a two-time Kodak All-American at Virginia and the first woman in program history to eclipse 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. "They just showed so much resolve."

UNC Greensboro won just 12 games in Palmer's first two seasons combined, but the Spartans are re-establishing themselves with a roster than features nine underclassmen, six of them freshmen. First-year players Shanese Harris (a Chesapeake native), Bailey Williams (Harrisonburg) and Jade Scaife along with sophomore Lucy Mason were all in the starting lineup.

Still, it was a senior that actually wore Norfolk State out. Center Janae Stevenson was a low-post beast down the stretch and finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds. NSU actually did a decent job defending the post in the first half. But the 6-2 Stevenson went for 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting after the break, and when the game was on the line late, she got whatever she wanted.

The victory boosted UNCG's record to 2-2. But while the foundation appears to be in place for this to be the Spartans' best team in years, it doesn't sound as though Palmer is quite ready to take on her old school yet.

"I haven't even thought about that," Palmer said with a smile. "Honestly, my main focus is on building my program."

Assisting Palmer in this task is Darren Guensch, who joined the Spartans after spending four years in assistant coach/director of operations roles at VCU.

As for Norfolk State (1-2), that had to be one disappointed locker room after having allowed those other Spartans to walk them down like that. The key now will be how NSU handles such a defeat. A year ago, the Spartans blew a double-digit second-half lead at home in their second game against Wofford and basically spent the next several weeks in freefall.

Here's hoping for a more successful response to the UNCG setback.

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