|Second half defense carries 49ers to A-10 win|
KINGSTON, R.I. - Charlotte stepped up its defensive efforts in the second half, allowing its offense to take over, and pulled away for a 53-42 road Atlantic 10 victory at Rhode Island Wednesday night. The 49ers limited the Rams to 13 points after the break and closed the triumph with a 17-6 spurt in the last 13 minutes following the game's eighth tie.
After Tayra Melendez knotted the score 36-36 with 13:11 to play, the 49ers post combination of Amanda Dowe and Jennifer Hailey went to work on the low block. The pair combined for the next eight points and 13-in-a-row Niners points to widen the margin to 11, 49-38, with just 4:21 left. Dowe added the team's final bucket, giving the tandem 15 of Charlotte's last 17 points down the stretch.
Aided by their efforts in the final 13 minutes, the duo registered a double-double apiece. Hailey led all players with 15 points and added 10 rebounds to cross over the 900-board plateau in her career, becoming only the fourth player in school history to reach the milestone. Her double-double, the 31st of her career, slid her into fourth place by herself in the program's record books.
Dowe contributed 13 points and grabbed a game-best 11 caroms. It marked the sixth time two Niners had a double-double in the same game this year and the eighth overall instance during head coach Cara Consuegra's tenure.
Freshman Kira Gordon chipped in 10 points, connecting on her first five field goals, to reach double digits for the second time in her short collegiate career.
Melendez paced the Rams with 12 points, finishing as the team's only double-figure scorer. Four URI players hauled in a squad-high four rebounds, as the 49ers won the battle on the glass, 43-to-30.
In a first half that featured a series of runs, it was Rhode Island (5-12, 0-2 A-10) that started and ended the half on a strong note. The Rams built an 8-2 advantage, covering the opening 3:04, before Charlotte's offensive efforts started to come to fruition.
The 49ers countered with a 12-2 spurt during the next six minutes, including four points apiece from Gordon and Hailey, to take their first lead at 14-10 entering the under-12 minute timeout. Free throws and jumpers kept URI within one until a 6-0 surge, featuring four points from Teneka Whittaker, gave the hosts the lead, 20-17, with 6:54 remaining.
Back-to-back conversions from Ny Hammonds allowed the Niners to reclaim the lead, although it would be brief. The two teams continued to trade points at the opposite ends, as neither squad could go ahead by more than one.
Following a Jai Forney free throw to force the stanza's third tie, 26-26, Megan Straumann dropped in the half's only 3-pointer from the left wing to lift the Rams to a 29-26 advantage with 34 seconds to play. Forney then was on the receiving end of an Ayanna Holmes pass to the low block for a layup, cutting the margin to one, 29-28, as the teams entered the intermission.
The second half started with Hillary Sigmon draining a 3-pointer, which would prove to be the only one for Charlotte (12-4, 1-1 A-10) on the night to extend their consecutive games streak to 62. The teams traded baskets again back and forth, similar to the first half, leading into the final stretch when Hailey returned to the court with 11:28 remaining after being saddled with foul trouble early and playing only nine minutes up until that point.
The win is the 49ers' fifth on the road this year, matching their total from all of last season. Charlotte remains unbeaten in true away games during 2012-13.
The Niners return to action at 2 p.m. Sunday when they play host to Xavier in another Atlantic 10 matchup inside Halton Arena. The action can be viewed on Charlotte49ers.com with Josh Feldman handling play-by-play duties.