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Charlotte women's basketball dropped a heartbreaking, 78-76, decision...
Courtesy: Charlotte Sports Information
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Overtime heartbreaker for 49ers in tough loss

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte women’s basketball went an extra five minutes for the first time in nearly two years, but fell two points shy in dropping a 78-76 overtime decision to Tulane Wednesday night in Conference USA action.

In a game in which neither team was able to pull away by more than eight, it was a late second-half surge by the Green Wave that nearly won it for them in regulation before the 49ers battled back from a six-point deficit in the final three minutes.

Both teams featured balanced scoring, with Charlotte (9-9, 3-2 C-USA) placing five players in double figures. Forwards Gabby Tyler and Kira Gordon led the charge with 15 and 14 points apiece, while each grabbed a game-best tying nine rebounds. Ny Hammonds also tallied 14 points, while handing out a game-high seven assists.

Hillary Sigmon and Lefty Webster poured in 13 and 10, respectively, and the pair combined for the three 49ers triples.

Danielle Blagg posted a game-best 19 points to top Tulane (13-5, 4-1 C-USA), while Adesuwa Ebomwonyi chipped in 16 and Jamie Kaplan added 15 for the visitors. Ebomwonyi hauled a team-high eight caroms.

As the game went the extra frame tied at 65 all, Charlotte looked to continue the momentum it acquired late in regulation. It turned to Tyler for the overtime’s first points, a layup, but Blagg answered with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to give the Green Wave a one-point lead with 4:19 left.

The score would be tied three times in the next 2:27, as Tiffany Dale’s layup countered a Sigmon jumper for a 72-72 deadlock with 1:52 remaining. Blagg then buried her second triple of the period at 1:34 off a Niners miscue, providing enough cushion for Tulane to not surrender the lead again. Charlotte trimmed the deficit to one, two more times, but could not overcome the deficit. Tyler missed a pair of free throws with under three seconds remaining, the second intentionally in an effort to give the 49ers the offensive rebound, but the Green Wave’s Chinwe Duru grabbed it and essentially locked up the win.

An even battle from the opening tip, Tulane pushed its early margin to three, but Charlotte quickly answered. An Ebomwonyi trey again gave the Green Wave a three-point lead, 6-3, at 17:40 and Blagg’s two charity tosses 50 seconds later expanded the difference to five, 8-3. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Kaplan and Leslie Vorpahl allowed Tulane to grow its advantage to a game-high eight, 16-8, with 13:27 remaining and force a 49ers timeout.

Out of the 30-second breather, Charlotte mounted a 7-0 spurt, all on points by post players, to pull within one, 16-15, with 10:13 left.  Over the next eight minutes, the most the Green Wave would remain in the lead would be three, but a Katye Magee 3-pointer at the 2:17 mark made it a four-point contest, 26-22.

Sigmon hit a jumper, then Hammonds swiped a steal and went to the other end for a layup to knot the score once more, 26-26, with 1:27 remaining. Three points by Tulane in the last 36 seconds, including a layup just before the final horn from Kaplan, sent the Green Wave into the intermission ahead, 29-26.

Tulane’s edge remained three, 32-29, through the first 1:26 of the second half before Sigmon drained the 49ers’ first triple of the contest. It ignited a 9-1 run in nearly three minutes, as Charlotte built its advantage to six, 38-32.

Blagg then toed the free-throw line and knocked down all three attempts coming out of the first media timeout at 15:47, trimming the gap back to three. She helped start a 7-2 Green Wave streak, as they cut it down to a one-point difference, 40-39, on consecutive Ebomwonyi layups.

The 49ers widened the lead back to as much as seven, 47-40, their largest of the game, by the 12:19 mark when Tori Carter went coast-to-coast after corralling a defensive rebound for a layup and subsequent free throw after drawing a foul.

Tulane, however, did not go away when it scored the next eight, including four free throws, to re-take the lead, 48-47, with 9:55 left. Tyler was Charlotte’s answer on its next possession, putting it back on top by one, but then a 7-0 stretch, capped by a Kaplan triple at 7:12, made it a 55-49 Green Wave lead. All in all, it amounted to a 15-2 surge for the visitors.

The 49ers kept attempting to claw back into it, making it 57-55 on another Tyler jumper, at the 4:43 mark, but back-to-back conversions by Kaplan and Blagg pushed it back to a half-dozen advantage entering the final three minutes.

Webster drilled her first 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining, and following two Tyler charity tosses and a Hammonds jumper in the lane with 1:05 to go, Charlotte found itself down just one, 63-62. Ebomwonyi’s layup with 42 ticks left, but Webster tied it with just over 20 seconds remaining to force overtime.

The Niners, who have lost their last four games by a combined six points, will return to the Halton Arena floor for a 7 p.m. Saturday tip-off against Rice. It will mark the fourth first-time opponent in the last five contests for Charlotte.

Charlotte Postgame Quotes
Head coach Cara Consuegra

Opening Statement
Obviously, a very tough loss for us. Anytime in this type of league, which I told our team, this is a very deep league. It is much better than the A-10. We are going to see a lot of teams that are capable of coming in here and giving us a game like this. You have to be able to protect your home court.
I feel that defensively we let each other down. I thought Tulane had way too many easy opportunities for layups at the rim due to our lack of transition defense, lack of communication defensively and making some key mistakes with some of the things that they ran. We have to be better about that. We have to communicate better about that.
We got off to a really great start in Conference USA because we did a much better job of making teams take contested jump shots. Tonight, we lost that. We gave up way to many layups. It was just too easy for them; it was just too easy for them. I think our kids rallied, we did get up big, seven or so. Tulane switched up into its zone and got us really out of balance there, but our kids didn’t give up. We turned around and then went down, but we didn’t give up. We battled, we got a key stop to get the game into overtime, then I thought that we would take off and be great there. But, we let them shoot 50 percent in overtime, then we just couldn’t convert on the offensive end.
As I said, it is a tough loss to take, but Tulane is a really good team. We just have to keep battling. This league is going to be like this. We have to learn how to close out close games like this and we have to get one on Saturday at home.

On pressing and creating turnovers on perimeter defense
Our inability to defend the 3-pointer was a significant problem tonight for us. We gave up seven threes. We also fouled a 3-point shooter twice, which is not in the statistics. We just did not do a very good job on that. I don’t think we located well. Some of those were on weak side skips and we were not able to close out and rush those shooters. They were able to set their feet and get the types of shots that they wanted to get. So that was definitely a disappointment.

On last time facing a team dangerous with outside shooting strengths
This is the first team in Conference USA that had three legit 3-point shooters. Then No. 3 (Katye Magee) comes off the bench, that never plays, hits a three on us as well. Obviously, the game plan was to deny those shooters. I don’t think we did a really good job in transition to get them denied on the hit ahead. We made some mistakes. They got us on a screen back play. They got us in transition. I just don’t think we did a good job locating them. We didn’t do a good job rushing them. When you have 3-point shooters, you have to make them feel rushed. We were not able to do that tonight.

On free throws missed in pressure situations
Well that’s tough, no doubt about that. You try to simulate that as much as you can in practice, but it is always tough to simulate that when the game is on the line and having to knock down two free throws. Free throws are all about reps. We have to keep working at it and continue to improve.

On what steps are taken moving forward
What I told them is that this league is going to be like this. We are going to see so many more teams that are better than when we were in the A-10. In the A-10 you had to prepare for a couple teams that were real tough and hung on to beat the teams in the lower part. This league isn’t like that. The positive that you can take out of this is there are going to be more opportunities. Someone is going to beat Tulane. Someone is going to beat whoever it may be. We just have to take care of business. We can’t drop another one at home and have to steal one on the road. All is not lost; there is a lot of time left. But we have to get a lot better defensively if we want to do that.

On Lefty’s maturation
I think with Lefty, she has developed as the year has gone on. For her it is about her confidence. I think early as a freshman she didn’t understand quite what our system and what was expected from her. As she has become comfortable and what we are doing, her confidence has risen. The great thing about her is she is really fearless and she is going to shoot those shots and has the ability to knock those down. She is not going to think about it and wonder if I should shoot this. She is not going to worry about if I shoot it and miss it; she is just going to shoot it. She has that capability. I think our team has a lot of confidence in her. I think she has earned that confidence because she has worked hard and done what we have asked her to do.

Sophomore Kira Gordon

On physicality in the post

It was pretty physical. Our help wasn’t there and we weren’t really there on defense. We made it look worse than it really was.

On play when Gabby isn’t on the floor
When Gabby isn’t in there, it is pretty difficult down there in the low post. (Alexis) is a good low post defender too.

Senior Ny Hammonds

On what needs to improve before Saturday
I don’t know about the other team but we have to guard penetration better. As well as being able to help each other. Because we are going to get beat sometimes but we have to be able to help each other. But we have to guard penetration better and box out. We gave up too many on the boards.

On improving her ball handling
I think I did a better job tonight taking care of the ball. It is all about focus. A lot of my turnovers are silly turnovers. The two that I had tonight were silly turnovers. It is all about focus when it comes to turnovers.

On improving focus
Just being ready to play. 

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