|Defense puts clamps on Aggies as Niners win|
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Charlotte's defensive effort late in the first half was the key to its 57-47 road victory Tuesday night at North Carolina A&T in the battle between the in-state foes in Greensboro, N.C. The 49ers pulled out the win despite using a different starting lineup for the first time this season.
Charlotte (7-2) was led by 17 points from sophomore Hillary Sigmon, giving the sharpshooter 36 in the last two contests. She knocked down a career-best five 3-pointers, including a pair to help the Niners separate themselves down the stretch of the opening period.
Senior Amanda Dowe finished with her fifth double-double of the season and 13th of her career with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, helping the 49ers win the battle on the glass, 46-37, including 20 offensive boards.
The triumph gave Charlotte a 7-2 mark in the season's first nine games for the third time in the last five years and the first under head coach Cara Consuegra.
JaQuayla Berry paced the Aggies with 15, knocking down the team's lone triples, while Tracy King added 14 points. The pair were also the top rebounders for North Carolina A&T (5-4), grabbing six caroms apiece.
The 49ers jumped out to an early 7-2 lead thanks to five points from Sigmon, including a back-door layup on an Ayanna Holmes assist, one of her career-best five helpers. Berry dropped in a 3-pointer at 16:12, pulling the Aggies within a bucket and igniting a 12-2 run during a five-minute stretch to take their first lead, 14-9, with 12:45 left.
Charlotte answered with consecutive triples from Sigmon and Holmes and added a pair of Jennifer Hailey free throws for an 8-0 spurt, keeping North Carolina A&T out of the scoring column for nearly six minutes and reclaiming a 17-14 edge at 7:16.
Berry pulled her team even at 17-17 with three free throws during the next minute before Sigmon drained back-to-back triples to push the Niners advantage to six, 23-17, a lead they would not relinquish the remainder of the contest. Nikia Gorham ended the NCA&T drought with a layup with exactly five minutes to play before the power on the clocks went out for a couple minutes.
Charlotte did not let the distraction cause it any fits and expanded its margin to as high as nine, 28-19, on an Alexis Alexander jumper with 52 seconds remaining. The two teams entered the intermission with the 49ers ahead seven, 28-21, after Berry converted a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left.
The early portions of the second half Dowe became the focal point of the Niner offense. She tallied seven of the team's first nine points, increasing the cushion to a dozen, 37-25, on successive layups and forcing North Carolina A&T to call a timeout at the 16:15 mark.
The lead remained in double digits with the Aggies able to close within 10 but Sigmon connected on another trey at 13:44 to make it a 14-point difference, 42-28. Dowe again went to work on the low block, using a pair of layups to stretch the margin to 16, 46-30, with 9:59 left.
Quick hands on the defensive end by Jai Forney resulted in layups, including the second as part of an old-fashioned three-point play wrapped around the under-eight media timeout. The charity toss she hit gave Charlotte its largest advantage at 21, 54-33, with 7:54 remaining.
The 49ers would then be outscored 14-3 down the stretch, including the final eight points from King. Only a Holmes triple at 2:43 lit up the lights on Charlotte's side of the scoreboard.
The Niners return to action when they play host to cross-county rival Davidson at 7 p.m. Friday. At halftime, members of Charlotte's 2003 NCAA Tournament team, the first in school history to advance to the Big Dance, will be recognized.