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Freshman Ciara Gregory hit four 3-pointers on her way to a career-high...
Courtesy: Charlotte Sports Information
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Second-half surge powers 49ers past Lady Techsters

RUSTON, La. – Charlotte netted a season-best 53 points in the second half, hitting 55.9 percent of its attempts in the frame, to turn a two-point halftime cushion into a 24-point rout, 85-61, at Louisiana Tech Thursday night in Ruston, La. The meeting, the first in the series between the two programs, was televised live on the Fox Sports Networks.

Five Niners reached double-figure scoring, led by a trio with 14 apiece. Freshman Ciara Gregory poured in a career-high 14, including a career-best tying four 3-pointers, while junior Hillary Sigmon chipped in three triples of her own to join her with team-high honors. Senior Ny Hammonds joined the pair with 14 points to go with her five assists, tying her with Markita Aldridge (1992, ’94-96) for the school’s all-time record with 442.

Also adding double-figure points were redshirt junior Gabby Tyler with 13 and sophomore Kira Gordon with 10.

Junior Ayanna Holmes hauled in a career-best nine rebounds to lead all players. Tyler collected eight boards, as Charlotte (11-11, 5-4 C-USA) dominated the glass, 48-to-31.

Lulu Perry paced the Lady Techsters with 19 points with Whitney Frazier tallying 15 and Chrisstasia Walter adding 11 to give the hosts a trio of double-figure scorers. Walter grabbed a game-best tying nine rebounds.

The 49ers began to seize control of the game in the final three minutes of the opening period, as a Gordon layup put Charlotte up two, 30-28, at 2:56. After Frazier tied the score for the fifth time in the first 20 minutes with two free throws with 25 seconds left, Hammonds drove the lane and dropped in an uncontested layup with nine seconds remaining to give the 49ers a 32-30 lead entering the break.

Hammonds then scored on the second half’s opening possession, pushing the lead to four temporarily before Walter answered with LA Tech’s first 3-pointer, trimming the margin back to one, 34-33. The Niners then mounted a 6-0 spurt covering nearly three minutes, as Gordon hit back-to-back jumpers and Tyler dropped in two free throws by the 17:03 mark.

Charlotte would then convert four-straight field goals, the last a layup by freshman Lefty Webster on a steal and assist by Gordon, to push the margin to 11, 48-37, with 15:31 to play. It would be a minute-and-a-half later when the next points were put on the board, as Frazier drained her own trifecta, making the difference single digits again; however, the hot-shooting 49ers countered with a 3-pointer by Sigmon and a layup from freshman Kenya Olley, running their consecutive shots made count to a half dozen and building a 53-40 advantage at the 13:09 mark.

Free throws allowed Charlotte to increase it margin to 15, 57-42, at 12:17, before Kanedria Andrews attempted to bring Louisiana Tech (7-16, 2-8 C-USA) back with four points in a row. Her personal run was halted by another Sigmon trey on an in-bounds pass to beat the shot clock buzzer and then she added an old-fashioned three-point play with 9:42 remaining to extend the cushion to 17, 63-46.

The difference swelled to 19 on the next 49ers possession following a Tyler jumper. Three-straight Lady Techsters points cut it back to 16 before Gregory went free for a layup, increasing it back to an 18-point lead, 67-49, with 8:20 remaining. Gregory’s final 3-pointer at 6:47 kept Charlotte’s edge at 19, 70-51, and Tyler’s old-fashioned three-point play at 5:27 provided the 49ers with a 20-point advantage for the first time, 73-53.

Following consecutive 3-point misses by LA Tech on the other end, Holmes received a pass and drained her long-range bomb as the shot-clock buzzer sounded, inching Charlotte’s lead to 23, 76-53.

The Niners captured their largest lead yet, as Hammonds added another layup with 3:15 left to make it 80-56. The closest the Lady Techsters would get down the stretch would be 21, but freshman Tanisha Brown decided the final outcome with her layup with 39 seconds to go.

The game started with both teams trading leads and neither being able gain more than a one-point edge until Walter’s jumper at 11:31 provided Louisiana Tech with a 14-11 margin. Perry extended it to a five-point difference, but sophomore Alexis Alexander hit a baseline jumper and Gregory buried a 3-pointer to force the third knotted score of the opening 10 minutes.

Gregory continued her hot hand, hitting back-to-back triples, giving her 3-of-3 from behind the arc, all from the right wing, to increase Charlotte’s advantage to four, 24-20, with 8:11 left. The 49ers’ lead remained a half dozen before Savannah Langston started a 6-0 Lady Techsters run, forcing a 28-28 tie, entering the last three minutes when the Niners would capitalize and begin to turn the tide.

Charlotte will have less than 48 hours to prepare for its next game, a 1 p.m. Saturday tip in Huntington, W.Va., against Marshall. It marks the first of two games this season against the Thundering Herd.

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