TULSA, Okla. – Charlotte allowed host Tulsa to shoot nearly 55 percent during the second half, as the host Golden Hurricane pulled away using long-range shots to defeat the 49ers in women’s basketball action Wednesday night, 68-57, inside the Donald W. Reynolds Center.
Leading the way for Charlotte in the scoring column was redshirt junior Gabby Tyler with 14 points. Sophomore Kira Gordon chipped in 12 and freshman Lefty Webster netted 11 off the bench.
Tyler was also the team’s, and game’s, top rebounder with nine caroms, falling just shy of a double-double for the second-straight contest. Overall, the 49ers out-rebounded the Hurricane 40-to-36.
Kelsee Grovey and Ashley Clark tallied 15 points apiece to pace Tulsa (12-15, 6-10 C-USA). Mariah Turner (12 points), Loren McDaniel (12) and Kaden Brady (10) provided the hosts with each starter in double-figure scoring.
Turner and McDaniel grabbed a team-best seven boards each.
Both sides struggled to score at times during the first half as they alternated runs. The Niners opened the contest by missing their first six shots, but Gordon’s layup at 16:53 trimmed the deficit in half, 4-2. Charlotte eventually battled back to force a 7-7 tie on a 3-pointer from junior Hillary Sigmon at the 16:06 mark, using it as part of an overall 13-4 spurt during a near five-minute span to take a 15-9 edge at 13:20 on the second of back-to-back buckets by Gordon.
Ten of the 15 points for the 49ers came in the paint, as Charlotte attempted to take advantage of its post play between Gordon and Tyler. The margin stayed at a half dozen, 19-13, following two Webster free throws at the 10:56 mark when the Niners were held off the scoreboard for over three minutes, allowing Tulsa to climb back to a 19-19 draw.
After both teams traded baskets and neither pushing its lead to more than two, a pair of Stevi Parker charity tosses at the 1:53 extended the Golden Hurricane’s edge to three, 28-25. Webster’s first of two free throws at 1:07 bounced high off the rim before dropping through, deciding the halftime score and keeping the 49ers within a possession entering the break.
Tulsa grew its cushion to six on early second-period layups, forcing a quick Charlotte (14-14, 8-7 C-USA) timeout. The 49ers responded with an 8-2 push, as Gordon and junior Ayanna Holmes split the points to pull Charlotte even, 34-34, at the 15:29 mark.
Grovey then started to heat up from the outside, dropping in the first of her three second-half triples, but a backcourt steal by Webster resulted in two free throws for the freshman. She dropped in the pair, cutting the deficit back to one, 37-36, with 14:07 left before an 8-2 Golden Hurricane run widened the Niners’ deficit to seven, 45-38, exactly two minutes later.
Following a jumper from the free throw line by freshman Ciara Gregory, trimming the gap to three, 45-42, Grovey buried consecutive 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and the Tulsa lead quickly grew back to nine, 51-42, with just over 10 minutes remaining and forcing another Charlotte timeout.
The margin grew to 10, 54-44, when Brady drained the third-straight trey at 9:20. The 49ers would cut it back to six, 56-50, but could get no closer during the final eight minutes. Brady’s layup at the 4:06 mark extended the cushion to as high as 12, a distance the Golden Hurricane would reach two more times before the game ended.
The Niners will look to close the regular season on a high note when they travel to Birmingham, Ala., for a 3 p.m. Friday start against UAB in a rescheduled contest with the Blazers. It will mark the final regular-season contest of the Conference USA campaign before the league tournament next week in El Paso, Texas.