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Nationally-ranked North Georgia sends Pioneers to first loss

Nationally-ranked North Georgia sends Pioneers to first loss

DAHLONEGA, Ga. --- North Georgia scored 19 consecutive points across the second and third quarters as the Nighthawks defeated Tusculum University 75-55 Saturday afternoon as part of the UNG Nighthawk Women's Basketball Classic at the Convocation Center.

Julianne Sutton and Macey Gregg scored 19 points apiece and Abbie Franklin added 18 for the defending Southeast Region champion Nighthawks (4-0), who were ranked 15th in the preseason by D2SIDA and 23rd by the WBCA. UNG shot 51.9 percent from the field (27-for-52) for the game after hitting nearly 63 percent in the first half, and made seven straight three-pointers at one point and was 10-for-15 from three-point range as a team before missing its final six attempts from long range.

Mia Long led the Pioneers (4-1) with 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting and Kasey Johnson added 11 points and a team-high six rebounds. Tusculum finished the game at just 32.2 percent (19-for-59) from the field and 3-for-16 from three-point territory, although the Pioneers were 14-for-16 at the free-throw line in the contest. Sydney Wilson also reached double figures for the Pioneers with 10 points.

Kara Groover was the fourth Nighthawk in double figures with 10 points to go along with game highs of eight rebounds and seven assists, and did not commit a turnover in 37 minutes of playing time. North Georgia finished the game with 19 turnovers as a team, but Tusculum could only convert those miscues into nine points. The Pioneers finished the contest with 13 turnovers, but the Nighthawks were able to score 20 points off the Tusculum turnovers.

The teams traded off the lead in the first quarter, with the Pioneer going up 7-6 on three free throws by Wilson with 7:08 left in the quarter. A three-pointer by Johnson gave the Pioneers what would be their final lead of the game at 12-10 with 4:29 to play in the period, as the Nighthawks closed on a 13-0 run capped by three consecutive three-pointers from Gregg which gave North Georgia a 23-12 lead after one quarter.

Wilson broke the run with a basket on the first possession of the second quarter, and a layup by Long cut the North Georgia lead to 28-20 with 7:01 left in the half. However, the Nighthawks outscored the Pioneers 16-1 over the final 6:17 of the half as North Georgia finished the quarter 7-for-9 from the field and 4-for-4 from three-point range to carry a 44-21 lead into intermission.

Franklin led all players with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the first half for North Georgia, while Gregg was 3-for-3 from beyond the arch and added 11 points in 14 minutes off the bench. As a team, the Nighthawks shot 17-for-27 (63.0 percent) from the field and hit seven three-pointers in 10 attempts. Long and Wilson shared the team lead in scoring for the Pioneers with eight points each, with Johnson accounting for the other five points as Tusculum was just 8-for-25 (32 percent) from the floor and only hit one three-pointer in four attempts.

Two free throws and a three-pointer from the Nighthawks' Sutton, followed by two foul shots from Gregg, gave the Nighthawks a 51-21 lead with eight minutes to go in the third quarter. Tusculum, which missed nine straight shots during a span of 9 1/2 minutes from the field, finally snapped the UNG scoring run on two free throws by Johnson with 7:55 left in the third quarter, followed by a steal and layup by Wilson. The Pioneers outscored the Nighthawks 22-21 in the third quarter and 12-10 in the fourth, led by nine points from Long (all in the third quarter) and six from Johnson.

Off the bench, Brianna Dixon had six points in 19 minutes for the Pioneers while Elle Hutchinson and Mya Belton added four apiece and Aliyah Miller contributed three on a three-pointer. The Pioneer bench was outscored by the Nighthawks' reserves by a 21-17 margin. North Georgia outrebounded Tusculum 41-28 in the game, which featured four ties and seven lead changes in the first quarter.

Tusculum will play its next three games at Pioneer Arena, starting on Friday, Nov. 22 with the first-ever meeting against Johnson & Wales University of Charlotte at 6 p.m.






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