Madness WBB
Defense sparks 49ers to season-opening victory
Courtesy: Charlotte Sports Information
          Release: 11/10/2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A solid all-around defensive effort by the Charlotte 49ers, which included holding North Carolina Central to 25.8 percent from the floor and forcing 28 turnovers, guided Charlotte to an 80-31 victory Saturday evening in the women's basketball season opener for both teams.

The 49ers jumped out to a 20-0 start before allowing the Eagles to score and finished with a flourish, completing a full 40-minute dominating effort. In the process, Charlotte allowed the fewest points by an opponent and set the largest margin of victory in the Cara Consuegra era. Consuegra, with the triumph, became just the third coach in program history to win his or her first two season openers since taking reins of the club.

Senior Jennifer Hailey, a Preseason All-Atlantic 10 First Team pick, collected her 21st career double-double with 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, helping the Niners to a 38-to-22 edge on the glass. She was joined in double-figure scoring by fellow senior starters Amanda Dowe (12 points) and Jai Forney (11).

Hailey's 10 points gives her 966 in her career, moving her into a tie for 20th in program history with Julie Burton (1990-93) on the school's all-time list.

Junior Ny Hammonds distributed eight assists, one-third of the team's total, to just one turnover. Overall, Charlotte (1-0) handed out 24 assists on its 36 made field goals. Everyone who played scored, including the first collegiate points for freshmen Tori Carter (8), Alexis Alexander (4), Shequana Harris (3) and Kira Gordon (2).

The thin Eagle lineup of just seven players was led by 13 points, including a perfect 7-of-7 at the foul line, from Tisha Dixon. Aja Hoyle, who scored NCCU's first bucket at 8:46 of the first half on a layup, finished with 10 points and shared team-high rebounding honors with Dixon at seven apiece.

Even though the game started sloppy for both teams, including 13 early turnovers for the Eagles before they scored the first time, Charlotte was able to take a commanding lead and never look back. Hailey ignited the 20-0 spurt over the first 11:14 by scoring the game's first basket, on a layup, at 17:15, on the ensuing Niner possession following an NCCU shot clock violation. The layups continued with back-to-back conversions from Forney and Hammonds before Dowe hit a 12-footer along the baseline at 14:42 to extend the margin to 8-0.

As the lead continued to swell, sophomore Ayanna Holmes knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as the 49ers quickly made it a 20-0 difference following a Dowe layup at the 9:18 mark.

Alexander answered Hoyle's initial basket for North Carolina Central (0-1) with a layup of her own, part of a 50-to-14 points in the paint domination, before Dixon added an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 22-5 with 7:10 remaining.

The next 11 points fell to Charlotte, stretching the gap to 28, 33-5, coming out of the under-four media timeout. The shots continued to fall for the 49ers down the stretch and they finished the opening period by making 20-of-34 field goals (58.8 percent) to take a 45-8 advantage into the intermission.

On the first Charlotte possession of the second half, Hammonds drained a trey to expand the margin to 40, 48-8. The Dixon and Hoyle combo kept the Eagles' brief hopes alive with four-straight points to trim it to a 36-point edge, 48-12, before another Niner 12-0 spurt and overall 18-2 run gave Charlotte its largest lead, 66-14, with 12:02 to play.

North Carolina Central kept battling and tallied the next 10 points, including eight at the foul line, to pull within 42, 66-24, in just under a two-minute stretch.

Holmes squashed the rally with her third and final triple of the evening at the 9:47 mark. It was the beginning of a 14-7 run to close the game. The victory also marks the 17th win in 18 tries when the Niners open a season at home.

Charlotte will hit the road for the first time in 2012-13 when it travels to Fort Worth, Texas, to face Big 12 member TCU at 8 p.m. Eastern Wednesday. The game can be heard on Charlotte49ers.com with Josh Feldman providing the play-by-play commentary.

Postgame Quotes

Head Coach Cara Consuegra

Can you talk about the momentum of the turnovers? How important was that for the early momentum?
Very important. For us, we always talk about starting well. Every time we're in practice, every time we are in a game, we want to start off with our drills right, we want off the game well. I thought we came out very focused, wanting to make a statement, wanting to make a play, wanting to show people that we are ready to play. I think it just goes to say our overall experience, our veteran leadership. They were hungry and ready to get out there to play.

You mentioned your veterans. What about your younger players, especially your freshmen and their first big win?
I thought our freshmen did a really good job overall. I would have to say our first half standout was Tori Carter. She came in and it was a great energy boost off the bench. I think she scored her points and did some good things, but overall, I think they contributed greatly. We're going to have that the entire season. We're not going to get through the season with five-to-seven people. I think they understand that and they're that support and we will continue to get better as we go through the season.

You held North Carolina Central just over 25 percent for the entire game. Was that something defensively you guys focused on after you did that in the exhibition game against Johnson C. Smith?
Our goal defensively is to keep teams to 27-to-28 percent and that was our main focus coming into the season. We felt like last season we were not as good coming in. We spend a lot of time in practice consistency working on our fundamentals, just our technique defensively. Our rotation was great tonight. We were able to help. It's all about team defense, not one person.

Senior forward Jennifer Hailey
Can you talk a little about the first game and how important it was to get the win?
It was very important for us to get the first win. We played well today. We had teammates that stepped up, it was great. We will be doing that for the rest of the season. Overall, it felt great to get the win.

You had a double-double today. Is that something we could look forward to?
Yes, my goal is to get a double-double every game. So yes.

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