Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Freeman, VUU Rally Past Slumping VSU
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Jan 21, 2013, 13:11

Virginia State University senior Jasmine Stewart (12) slashes between a pair of Virginia Union defenders during a CIAA game on Saturday at Daniel Gymnasium in Ettrick. VSU led by 18 in the first half, but VUU rallied in the second to win 65-52 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).

ETTRICK – Virginia Union University women’s basketball coach Barvenia Wooten-Cherry called her players’ first-half performance against Virginia State “unacceptable.” She summoned another word altogether to describe their showing after halftime — “fortitude.”

Propelled by 24 points from sophomore Ashle Freeman, the visiting Panthers overcame an 18-point deficit to defeat the Trojans 65-52 on Saturday in a CIAA Northern Division showdown in Ettrick.

VSU started the contest with a 23-5 burst
Virginia State University senior Ashley Whitaker (24), a graduate of Petersburg High School, drives the baseline against Virginia Union on Saturday in Ettrick (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
and led 33-23 at the break, but Freeman singlehandedly outscored the home team in the second half. The 5-foot-6 guard poured in 21 points in the final 20 minutes, starring in a period that saw the Panthers outscore their rivals 42-19.

“Once [Freeman] found that rhythm, she’s that type of ball player,” Wooten-Cherry said. “She’s going to make it happen.”

The loss was the sixth in seven games for the Trojans and their fourth in a row at home.

“When we came in, we said it’s going to come down to who wins the second half,” said VSU coach James Hill. “The first half never dictates who is going to win the game. You can get hot in the first half and go cold in the second half.”

The Trojans were certainly scorching in the early going. Dashae Jones and Yashica Blakney knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give VSU a 21-5 edge midway through the first half.

VSU junior Alexandria Massado – who led the Trojans with 16 points and 13 rebounds – produced the largest gap of the night moments later by notching her third offensive rebound and putback in the first 10 minutes.

But the Panthers’ defensive missteps paled in comparison to their offensive woes in the early stages. The visitors could find no answer for the Trojans’ full-court pressure, which yielded 18 turnovers in the first half.

VSU also held an 18-11 rebounding edge and took 16 more shots than VUU in the opening frame.

“We have to learn how to deal with pressure,” Wooten-Cherry said. “They put the pressure on us and we started turning the ball over.”

Frustrated with the way things were unfolding, Wooten-Cherry opted for wholesale changes. She pulled all five starters and favored her reserves for long stretches.

“At halftime, I told them, ‘This is when real ball players show up,’” Wooten-Cherry said. “‘It has nothing to do with the plays and it has nothing to do with the offense, but it has everything to do with your ability to play basketball.’”

Freeman showed up immediately thereafter, and her teammates weren’t far behind. The fleet-footed guard scored VUU’s first eight points of the second half, igniting a 17-3 run that concluded with the Panthers leading by four. Her old-fashioned three-point play gave her team a lead it would never relinquish with 15:35 remaining.

“Their intensity level picked up and ours did not,” Hill said. “We have to learn to play two halves.”

The two teams traded baskets in the moments following the only lead change of the game, but VUU senior Parress Davis punctuated the come-from-behind victory with a series of mid-range jumpshots that provided the Panthers with their decisive cushion.

VSU senior Kiara Walton joined Massado in double figures with 10 points while Jones and Jasmine Stewart scored nine and eight, respectively, for the team from Ettrick.

The Trojans shot 21 percent from the floor in the second half, leaving the door ajar for their increasingly hot-handed divisional rivals. By contrast, the Panthers connected on 19 of 32 shots in the second stanza.

Freeman was a microcosm of her team in that endeavor. The former Henrico High School standout was a picture of efficiency, converting 10 of 13 field goal attempts. She went 9 for 12 in the second half and made good on all of her offerings from two-point range.

Danielle Ferguson complimented Freeman’s production with 15 points for VUU, which improved to 7-8 on the season (4-3 CIAA).

VSU (8-9 overall, 1-6 CIAA) was without the services of Lamesha Deal, the team’s leading scorer. The senior rolled her ankle in a win over Johnson C. Smith on Monday but is expected to be back on the court against Chowan on Wednesday.

“Her being out made a big difference,” Hill said. “She averages 14 points per game. When you take that away, you hope that somebody else will step up. They didn’t step up.”

VIRGINIA UNION (7-8, 4-3 CIAA): Brown 6, Freeman 24, Barret 4, Ferguson 15, Davis 8, Allen 0, Cowherd 0, Tatum 5, Howard 2, Daniels 1. Totals: 26 12-19 65. 3-pointer: Brown.

VIRGINIA STATE: (5-19, 1-6 CIAA): Jones 9, Walton 10, Stewart 8, Massado 16, Blakney 6, Petes 0, Stevenson 0, Holt 3, Bates 0, Whitaker 0. Totals: 19 8-13 52. 3-pointers: Jones 2, Stewart 2, Blakney 2.

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