CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte placed four players in double-figure scoring, including three starters and a career-high effort from a sophomore off the bench, to hand UNC Wilmington a 78-57 defeat Friday afternoon as part of the annual Education Day festivities in Halton Arena. The 49ers’ victory came as the squad flipped the calendar to 2014 and closed the non-conference schedule.
Sophomore Tori Carter, who opened the campaign with 12 points against Liberty Nov. 8, reached double digits for the second time this year with a career-best 16 against the Seahawks Friday to lead all players, bookending the non-conference slate. She hit all six of her free throws and added 5-of-8 from the floor to pair with her career-high five rebounds in 21 minutes.
Redshirt junior Gabby Tyler paced the trio of starters with double-figure points with 14, surpassing the 11 from sophomore Kira Gordon and 10 by junior Hillary Sigmon. Tyler added three blocked shots, Gordon hauled in seven rebounds and Sigmon buried the team’s only two 3-pointers to provide all-around performances.
Sophomore Alexis Alexander led Charlotte (6-7) with eight rebounds, helping her squad dominate the battle on the glass, 46-to-28, and turn 24 offensive boards into 21 second-chance points.
All 13 Niners saw action for the second time this year, while freshman Tanisha Brown netted her first career points on her only shot following a low-post feed from fellow rookie Meme Garner helping Charlotte shoot a season-high 46.0 percent from the floor.
D’Asia Cain was the Seahawks’ leading scorer with 15, as she was the only UNCW (1-13) player to reach double figures. Amber Reeves chipped in nine points for the depleted roster which featured just seven players.
The game started with both teams trading 4-0 runs, as UNC Wilmington kept it an 8-4 Niners lead through the first four minutes. Following a pair of Reeves free throws at 15:47 to trim the Charlotte edge to two, 8-6, Alexander ignited a 14-6 run over the next six minutes, capped by a Sigmon triple at 9:29, as the 49ers doubled-up the Seahawks, 24-12.
UNCW responded with five straight, including a trey of its own by Kelva Atkins, slicing the margin to seven, 24-17, as Charlotte was held scoreless for four minutes before junior Olivia Rankin ended the drought with a jumper at 5:23.
Rankin’s bucket helped the 49ers close the first half on a 14-7 run with five different players finding the bottom of the hoop, including six from freshman Lefty Webster, to take a 38-24 advantage into halftime.
The lead never dipped into single digits during the second half and back-to-back layups from Tyler and senior Ny Hammondswidened the margin to 18, 42-24, in the first minute. Hammonds’ conversion resulted from a backcourt steal.
The Seahawks trimmed it back to a 13-point contest, 44-31, at 16:53 when Johanna McMillan buried a 3-pointer, one of three for the visitors behind the arc. By the time the first six minutes of the period elapsed, UNCW closed within a dozen, 50-38, on an old-fashioned three-point play by Naqaiyyah Teague and a pair of free throws from Reeves.
Charlotte would grow its lead back to 16, but a 4-0 Seahawk spurt made it a difference of a dozen once again, 56-44, at 11:06 on a Mobley layup. The 49ers then mounted their own 7-0 stretch over the course of nearly four minutes to push it to a 63-44 advantage on a Hammonds jumper at 8:21.
The closest UNC Wilmington would get the remainder of the game would be 15, the last time on a Cain jumper at 4:27 for a 67-52 Niners lead. A charity toss by freshman Ciara Gregory provided Charlotte with its first 20-point cushion, 72-52, with 2:37 to play and the home team reached its largest margin, at 22, 78-56, on a Carter layup with 34 seconds left.
The 49ers will now turn their attention to Conference USA, a league in which they competed from 1995-96 through 2004-05. Charlotte will continue its current homestand with back-to-back contests inside Halton Arena to open the conference slate, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday against former Sun Belt rival Old Dominion, who is also in its first season in the league. The homestand concludes with a 7 p.m. Saturday tip against North Texas, yet another first-year member of Conference USA.
Stay tuned to Charlotte49ers.com for further updates and information regarding the Charlotte women’s basketball Conference USA season.
Charlotte Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Cara Consuegra
“It was great to see our team bounce back from a disappointing loss here a few nights ago. I thought that we came out with a lot more energy, and a lot more focus, which is what we should be doing. I thought it was a fabulous team win for us. We went into the game with a game plan as coaches to try and use our rotation more, which is exactly what we did. I thought our team really stepped up and responded to that. Tori (Carter) had an incredible effort off the bench, Lefty Webster did well and Alexis Alexander had some great minutes as well. That’s the type of team we need to be. We need to be a team with depth, rotate people in and attack people from different areas. I thought offensively today, we did a really good job in terms of shooting the ball better, moving the ball better in the second half against the zone. We had 24 offensive rebounds and that was scattered among several people. We have that type of athletic ability to be that way in the boards, we just don’t show it all the time. I hope we can take the confidence in what we did in this game, moving forward, and we are looking forward to get into conference play.”
On rebounding from the last game
“Anytime you have a disappointing loss, you have to look inside yourself and see where you need to change. I thought we had a really good week at practice and had a different bounce about us. That’s what’s really been working. I’ve always said throughout this season, ‘We are a really young team, and we just have to get confidence.’ We need to understand that we have a lot of potential, and we can be a really good team. This game is evidence of that.”
On 11 players scoring
“I would like to get us to the point, where we can have this kind of rotation, and not have so many heavy minutes.”
On early second-half timeouts
“I just didn’t think we were focused coming out of the halftime. We made a couple of mistakes in the defensive game plan so I just called the timeouts for us to refocus and remind us. That’s always a challenge for a young team when you have a big lead over a team that’s not as strong. Can you stay focused and continue to play well?”
Redshirt junior Gabby Tyler
On getting rebounds
“It was good getting the rebounds because we needed the extra opportunities. We shot the ball really well, but we’ve been talking about rebounds a lot. We’ve been trying to get out there offensively and defensively, and we did that today.”
On going into conference games
“I think this will help us a lot. Coach talked about it pregame and you can’t redo our 5-7 record, but what we can do, is start today and be a new team. A team that plays defense, so I think this win today is good for us and we need it.”
Sophomore Tori Carter
On practice this week
“I love the new change in practice. Now, we have music in the beginning of practice and music hypes everyone and me up. It’s the new spark in practice.”
On double-figure scoring
“I never hold my head down. I always want to bring a spark off the bench. Today was the day. New year, new beginnings.”
On conference games starting
“I think this is a confidence booster for all of us as a team. We just have to keep it up, work hard in practice and everything will fall in place.”