NCCU junior Caira Benton during Tuesday’s game against Johnson & Wales. She finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and four assists (by KeShawn Ennis)
DURHAM, NC– Junior transfers Sami Oliver-Alexander and Caira Benton had breakout performances for the North Carolina Central University women’s basketball team in a 68-51 victory over Johnson & Wales University Tuesday afternoon in McDougald-McLendon Arena.
Oliver-Alexander scored a team-high 21 points and added seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Her fourth 3-pointer sparked a 23-9 closing run.
Benton recorded her first maroon and gray double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. She filled up the box score with four steals and four assists.
NCCU (2-3 Overall) scored the first seven points and never trailed. The Wildcats, who were trying to win a fourth straight game, closed to within one point midway through the third quarter but NCCU scored the final seven points of the period to stay in front.
Johnson & Wales (6-2 Overall) again got within one possession in the fourth quarter on two free throws by sophomore forward Ineesha Handerson, which trimmed the deficit to 45-42 with 6:38 left on the clock.
However, sophomore Darria Hewitt came into the game at that time and immediately sparked the Eagles with a layup on the ensuing NCCU possession. Oliver-Alexander followed with her fourth 3-pointer from the top of the arc and Benton added a jumper just moments later. Junior Dominique Adams provided two of her five assists during that critical 7-0 surge.
Senior Kierona Morton scored all seven of her points in the final four minutes in keeping NCCU comfortably ahead down the stretch.
The Eagles shot 45-percent (9-20) in the fourth quarter while holding JWU to just 11.1% (2-18) over the final 10 minutes. NCCU came up with seven of its 10 steals in the final period. The Eagles finished with a 28-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Wildcats only made 14 of their 62 shots attempts (22.6%), with nine of those tries being blocked, but the visitors outrebounded NCCU and made 20-of-27 free throws (74.1%) to keep things interesting.
Defensively, junior Jayla Calhoun and sophomore Paulina Afriyie both had three blocks and two steals for the Eagles. Calhoun grabbed seven rebounds and Afriyie yanked down six.
With NCCU leading scorer Rodneysha Martin in foul trouble the whole game, freshman Alyssa Thompson chipped in nine points. The Eagles top four scorers in Oliver-Alexander, Benton, Thompson and Morton all had season-high point totals.
Hankerson notched a double-double for the Wildcats with 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Freshman Chase Muhammad bucketed 22 points and made five steals.
NCCU embarks on a season-long, six-game road swing beginning at UNCW on Sunday at 2 p.m.