Kiara Moore

Lenoir-Rhyne's Kiara Moore (31) gets behind UNC Pembroke's Stephanie Johnson (32) for the layup Saturday in Hickory. 

The Lenoir-Rhyne women’s basketball team opened the season’s first home game in dominant fashion, holding opponent UNC Pembroke to 2-of-11 shooting in the first frame and taking a 13-4 lead.

But that would be the only quarter the Bears (1-2) would win, as the Braves (3-1) used a 22-11 third-quarter advantage to bolster a 65-56 victory Saturday evening at Shuford Gymnasium.

Sophomore Madeline Hardy led the way for Lenoir-Rhyne in the loss, tallying 20 points and 15 rebounds.

Bears head coach Cam Sealey credited Hardy for helping to keep the home team in the game, adding she could have finished with close to 30 points if she converted more of her chances around the rim.

“She fought. She’s tough, she tried to lead our team but we couldn’t get it going,” Sealey said.

UNC Pembroke focused most of its defensive efforts on limiting junior Kennedy Weigt, who was coming off a school-record eight made 3-pointers in the Bears’ first win of the season over USC Aiken.

“They started taking away our strengths offensively,” Sealey said. “When they did that, we didn’t react well. They were just tougher than us.”

Sealey pointed to Pembroke’s advantage in points in the paint as a telling factor. The Braves outscored the Bears 34-14 in the painted area. Aliyah Farmer led the charge with 13 points and nine rebounds.

The Bears did get to within three when Weigt banked in a triple with just over four minutes left, only to be matched on the other end by a Jillian Ebron trey to double the lead to 57-51.

Saturday’s game did mark the return of sophomore Hanna McClung. The West Virginia native suffered a torn ACL last year. A brace on the knee didn’t stop McClung from diving out of bounds for a loose ball when an opposing player was slow to pick it up.

“We were hoping she speeds up the game,” Sealey said. “But she hasn’t played 32 minutes of basketball since high school. It’s just a matter of getting her up to pace.”

Additionally, freshmen Ashley Woodroffe, Laney Fox and Blair Barefoot all saw significant minutes, with Woodroffe starting the game and finishing with five points, three rebounds and three steals.

“They have this fight inside them, they want to win,” Sealey said. “So we’re just trying to get them up to speed.”

A goal for the Bears this season was to consistently be close to 70 shot attempts per game, playing a faster pace without sacrificing shot quality. This game fell well below that mark, something Sealey mentioned after the game.

“At the end of the day, it falls on me,” Sealey said. “I’ve got to figure it out, we’ve got to get some team chemistry going, get us playing like we have in some of our recent games and I think we’ll be fine.”

Lenoir-Rhyne will host Lees-McRae College on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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