by Mike Potter
McLENDON-McDOUGALD GYM/DURHAM N.C. Central is still looking for its first win of the women's basketball season, and today the Eagles get their second straight home game.
Today's opponent is Gardner-Webb (2-1), which was picked in preseason to finish third in the Big South Conference. The Runnin' Bulldogs' only loss so far has been to Houston.
NCCU (0-3) fought gamely in its last contest Wednesday night against Campbell, falling behind by over 20 points before recovering to make it close. But the Camels dominated down the stretch in a 79-63 win.
The Eagles played Gardner-Webb last season in Boiling Springs, winning 73-60.
The Runnin' Bulldogs' best player may be Northern High alumna Margaret Roundtree, whose older sister Tonia played for the Eagles a couple of years ago. GWU also has a big presence inside in 6-6 Lithuanian Sandra Vaitkute, who played her first two seasons at Maine.
The most accomplished player on the NCCU roster, sophomore forward Chasidy Williams, is still not playing because of an undisclosed medical situation. Williams is day-to-day.
And although the game is competitive it turns out to be a tough day for the Eagles, as Gardner-Webb wins 66-55 despite 22 points from the Eagles' Joanna Miller (pictured).
Gardner-Webb gets out to a quick 20-7 lead on the strength of 11 points from Vaitkute, and it looks like a blowout might be in progress. But the quicker Eagles are dominating the boards, and it begins to pay off.
NCCU takes its only lead at 28-26 on a Joanna Miller layup with 3:02 left in the half, and goes into the locker room trailing 31-28.
GWU gets out quickly in the second half, taking a 44-35 lead on a Monique Hudson 3-pointer with 15:52 left. The Eagles can never cut the margin to fewer than six points thereafter.
Vaitkute leads all scorers with a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds, her first career double-double. Monique Hudson adds 17 points off the bench.
Freshman Miller has her second straight 22-point game, while Danielle DeBerry chips in 13 for the Eagles.
GWU shoots 45.3 percent to 35.2 and ekes out a 36-35 advantage on the boards. Turnovers are 18 apiece.
They said it ...
NCCU coach Joli Robinson: "You don't see a lot of players like (Vaitkute), but if we'd done the things we needed to do that we practiced we could have defended her a lot better. We allowed her to stay close to the basket and on the block. ... I think Joanna's fitting in OK for us. We just have to give her some more help."
Miller: "The first half, I thought we were very good. In the second half, we got a little fatigued. They used their players very well."
DeBerry: "We're not used to playing anyone of (Vaitkute's) size. Honestly they could have given her the ball every time and we couldn't have done anything about it. We just tried to be aggressive and stay in front of her with our hands up."
What does it all mean?
That the Eagles were unable to get a momentum victory before heading on a seven-game road trip.
Stars of the game
3. Monique Hudson.
Play of the game
Miller's baseball pass to Blaire Houston for a layup to cut the margin to 20-10 with 8:32 left in the first.
GWU leads 3-1.
NCCU: Lost 4.
GWU: Won 3.
GWU vs. Appalachian State, Tuesday, 7 p.m.
NCCU at George Mason, Friday, 7 p.m.