Western Carolina put Georgia Southern through a free-throw boot camp, but the Lady Eagles fought through it to capture the 600th overall win in the program’s history.
The Lady Catamounts committed 19 fouls after halftime, and GSU hit 29 of 36 foul shots on the evening to knock off WCU 69-64 in overtime Friday at Hanner Fieldhouse.
Meredyth Frye finished with 18 points and hit 13 of 14 free throws, including the last two that put the Catamounts away with two seconds remaining in the extra period.
“One thing they tell us in practice is to pick two players you want to put on the line,” said Frye a 5-foot-10 sophomore. “The team always trusts me to make those during practice, and they always trust me during the game.”
Senior point guard Jamie Navarro (12 points) had a quiet game in regulation and hit her only 3-pointer of the game on the first possession of overtime to give the Eagles (8-10, 5-4 Southern Conference) a 59-56 cushion.
Freshman guard MiMi DuBose later scored on a layup to make it a two-possession game and force WCU (5-11, 3-4) to start fouling after a Caitlin Hollifield layup made it 64-62 with 22 seconds to go.
DuBose led the team in scoring for the second-straight game. After scoring 25 in GSU’s 73-65 win over Appalachian State Monday, she dropped 20 against the Catamounts, including knocking down 3 of 5 3-pointers.
The Eagles went 6 of 13 from long distance.
Western Carolina’s fouling was a constant theme in the second half after it was whistled only three times in the first.
` The Eagles entered the game shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe as a team, and the starting five averaged 80 percent before the contest. The final tally against the Catamounts was 80.6 percent.
“We felt like as a staff that was one of our advantages coming in,” said GSU coach Rusty Cram. “We thought we were going to the line. I wasn’t pleased with the first half – I didn’t think we got to the line near enough in the first half – but the point of emphasis in the second half was get to the line, and the kids responded to that well.”
Georgia Southern led by as many as nine in the second half when Krista Tate hit a pair of free throws to put the Eagles ahead 50-41 with 8:13 to go, but WCU slowly chipped away. The Eagles never trailed in the second half, but went without a field goal for the last 6:22 of the game.
“We couldn’t score,” Cram said. “We were getting to the free-throw line, but when they quit fouling us, we weren’t looking to score. They did a great job of taking away the perimeter game. … They weren’t scoring a lot because we were able to limit the possessions, but we weren’t able to score.”
The Eagles were clinging to a 56-54 lead with 52 seconds remaining, and after Emily Clarke missed a 3, Kendra Carroll tracked down the offensive board and hit a jumper to tie it at 56-56 with 15 seconds to go.
Kaila’Shea Menendez led WCU with 15 points. Carroll scored the last four points of regulation and finished with 12, and Clarke, who shot 3 of 11 from behind the arc, finished with 11, along with Hollifield.
The Eagles, winners of seven out of the last nine, will hit the road for a two-game road trip that will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Charleston. Georgia Southern is winless on the road this season in conference play and 1-9 overall away from Hanner.
Of course, Cram doesn’t see it as the same team that lost eight of the first nine games of the season.
“I think they’re beyond that now,” said the GSU coach. “I think now they’re finding out who they are and they’re starting to get a lot of confidence. For the first time this year we’re above .500 in the conference and we’re two away from .500 overall. To think we were 1-8, and now we’re sitting at 8-10, that’s a pretty good comeback. The kids are obviously doing something right, and we’re just going to ride it and see where it goes.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.