|Team effort keys Charlotte past Rebels in desert|
LAS VEGAS – Charlotte had three players reach double-figure scoring, including a pair who matched career highs, to lead an overall balanced attack and team 40-minute effort in knocking off UNLV, 80-75, in the Lady Rebel Round-Up consolation game Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas.
Junior Hillary Sigmon led the way with a career-best tying 22 points, matching the output she had in Saturday’s opening-round contest against Cincinnati. She was joined by sophomore Kira Gordon, who chipped in a career-high equaling 16, and classmate Alexis Alexander who tallied 14 to set a new career best, surpassing yesterday’s performance by one point.
Freshman Kenya Olley, who made her collegiate debut with three minutes Saturday, lifted the bench with nine points, six rebounds and a blocked shot. She tied Sigmon for second on the squad with her half-dozen boards, as the pair finished behind Alexander’s eight.
Unlike yesterday when the 49ers struggled in the second period, they shot 55.9 percent from the floor in the last 20 minutes to pick up the decisive victory.
Alana Cesarz paced the Lady Rebels with 17 points, while Briana Charles contributed 16 and Amanda Anderson finished with 10 points to give UNLV a trio in double-figure scoring. Regan Vérin, the reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year, was held to nine points on 2-of-14 field goals, though she led all players with 10 rebounds, including nine on the defensive glass.
Charlotte came out in the first half with more energy and aggressiveness on both ends than it had shown during Saturday’s opening-round game against Cincinnati. The 49ers had grabbed 24 rebounds by the intermission, two-thirds of their total effort in their first outing in the desert.
UNLV scored the opening bucket, a layup by Rmanii Haynes within the first minute, but Charlotte (4-4) answered with an 8-0 run covering nearly three minutes, half of which came via Gordon, to take a lead it would not surrender the remainder of the stanza. The Lady Rebels battled back, forcing an eight-all tie and another deadlock at 10-10 following an Aley Rohde layup with 13:33 left.
Olley put the Niners back up a point by sinking her first point at the charity stripe. Junior Ayanna Holmes then dropped in a trey, extending the margin to four, 14-10, at 11:43. Anderson countered with her own triple, starting a 5-1 UNLV (2-5) surge to force another tie at 15-15 with 11:08 to play on an Amie Callaway layup.
Sophomore Tori Carter and the 49ers were not fazed, however, as she hit a running jumper from eight feet and Sigmon knocked down a 3-pointer without the net moving to push Charlotte back on top, 20-15, by the midway point of the half.
Only free throws from both teams would add to the scoring columns during the next four-and-a-half minutes, including the first by freshman Ciara Gregory, as the Niners maintained their six-point, 23-17, cushion entering the final six minutes.
Olley’s offensive rebound and put-back gave Charlotte its first eight-point advantage, 25-17, at 5:56. The next three minutes saw the 49ers face another Lady Rebels run, slicing the gap to five with a 7-2 spurt, but consecutive jumpers from Alexander and Sigmon made it a nine-point difference, the largest of the half, with 3:12 to go.
Two Haynes free throws and another trifecta from Anderson pulled UNLV within four, 31-27, at the 2:10 mark. Both teams added only two more points apiece down the stretch, as the 49ers held the four-point cushion, 33-29, entering the break.
Senior Ny Hammonds started the second half by receiving the in-bounds pass and racing uncontested for a layup, making it a six-point edge, just six seconds into the stanza. The Lady Rebels cut it in half just over a minute later but four-straight Alexander points increased the margin back to seven, 41-34, with 16:46 left.
Alexander added another four consecutive points and Gordon hit a jumper to provide Charlotte with its largest advantage of 12, 47-35, at 14:40 to close a 14-6 surge to start the half. UNLV cut it to eight in the next two minutes but the Niners pushed it back to 11, 54-43, by the next media timeout at 11:45.
The Lady Rebels came out of the short break with a 9-0 run in the next 2:14, using seven free throws, including five by Cesarz, to make it a one-possession contest, 54-52, at 9:31. The 49ers then answered with a 10-2 stretch, making it double-figure difference once again, 64-54, at the 6:25 mark.
An old-fashioned three-point play from Charles and a triple by Cesarz kept UNLV within striking distance again, knocking the gap to four, 64-60. Two times in the next two minutes Charlotte inched its lead back to eight but the pesky Lady Rebels would not go away completely. Charles added another three-point situation at 2:22, keeping UNLV within a possession, 72-69.
Back-to-back Gordon buckets turned the tide back on the 49ers’ side before a 6-0 Lady Rebels run made it a one-point score, 76-75, with just 27 seconds remaining. It was the closest UNLV would get since about halfway through the first session.
The Niners then stepped to the foul line and iced the victory with two charity tosses apiece from freshman Lefty Webster and Sigmon.
Charlotte will return to the Queen City and have a week off before its next game, a Dec. 8 home contest against nationally-ranked South Carolina. The Gamecocks were listed as high as No. 13 in this past week’s national polls.
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