Before their matchup last Wednesday night, the women’s basketball team was riding high on a two-game winning streak, and was smelling blood in the water before facing a winless Wofford Terrier squad.
However, the Terriers’ 0-4 record was misleading because they had never lost a game by more than 14 points and three of their losses were by single-digits.
Further showing their potential, Wofford began the game in top form hitting every 3-pointer they took in the first quarter along with an 80 percent clip from the field, and led the Lancers 26-13.
The game was played closely in the second quarter as Wofford outscored Longwood 22-20, further stretching their lead to 48-33 at the break.
However, the Lancers wouldn't go away without a fight and clawed their way back into the game, outscoring the Terriers 20-9 in the third quarter, and cut the lead to only a single point with 20 seconds remaining.
Wofford would stretch the lead to three with two free throws, and Longwood would have one last chance to inbound and tie with six seconds to go. The ball would be thrown into the backcourt and corralled by Anne-Hamilton Leroy, she dribbled swiftly and launched a tying 3-pointer that just came up short.
The Terriers escaped with a 79-76 win, making Longwood now 2-3 on the still young season.
“We knew how offensively powerful they (Wofford) were. They ate at our defensive confidence early," said second year head coach Rebecca Tillett.
"The most impressive thing about the third quarter was how well we defended. It was fueled by our defense. You’re not always going to have incredible shooting quarters or nights and so you’ve got to have something to rely on.”
All five starters for the Lancers scored in double-figures, with the most points coming from freshman guard Anne Hamilton-Leroy with 20. The game was also a homecoming for Leroy because she is from South Carolina and Tillett said that she got a huge turnout from her family.
Tillett said she learned a lot about the fabric of her team throughout the massive comeback.
“Each year, you’re always wondering what are the limits? Against Brown, we came back from down 15 and won. Against Wofford, we came back from down 19 and made it a one-possession game. We learned that teams can’t count us out when we’re down and that’s a powerful thing to lean on from experience.”
One major issue for the team came from their lack of bench production. Out of the 76 points scored by the Lancers, only two came from their bench, which Tillett said was unusual.
“If you look over the course of the season, our bench production is solid. It was a unique game environment in terms of how hard we had to fight to get out of the hole. There were some things that Wofford was doing to us that affected our personnel choices. I don’t have any concerns about our bench. I think that they will produce for us consistently.”
One of the Lancers who scored in double-figured was senior forward Dayna Rouse. She had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Like Tillett, Rouse was also proud of the way the team never gave up and fought back in the second half.
“We just all sort of figured out that they can’t score on us like that for four quarters. We made the decision to make tough plays and to stay together and chip away at the deficit.”
Rouse said that the team could avoid having to mount such a large comeback by remaining focused from the start and bringing the same level on energy for all four quarters.
As one of the most decorated players in program history, Rouse is no stranger to putting up big numbers as she is now 234 points shy of 1,000 career points and is top five all-time in program history in field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
“There’s that pressure on me. I just have to respond to the pressure with consistent numbers. I have those expectations put on me for a reason so I just have to rise to them," she said.
The women’s basketball team returns to action on Tuesday as they take on the Pirates of East Carolina University in Willett Hall with a 7:00 p.m. tip.