SAN ANTONIO – Charlotte dug itself too large of a hole to begin the second half and fell just short, dropping a 61-60 decision at UTSA Wednesday night in the first Conference USA road contest of the campaign for the 49ers.
Despite the loss, Ny Hammonds led the Niners with 16 points and eight assists, edging out Gabby Tyler’s 15 for team-high scoring honors. Sophomores Kira Gordon and Alexis Alexander shared the top 49ers spot on the glass with seven caroms apiece.
McKenzie Adams paced all players with 20 points, including 10-of-15 from the floor, to go with Miki Turner’s 10 points as each squad had two double-digit scorers. Mannasha Bell chipped in eight points and a game-best nine rebounds for a near double-double.
The Roadrunners gained control to start the second half with a 16-4 run during the first six minutes, racing out to a 10-point advantage to erase their two-point halftime deficit. Adams got things started before Kamra King added a pair of buckets, forcing a Charlotte timeout down 34-30 on the 6-0 sprint.
Lefty Webster immediately answered the timeout plea with a basket, and after both teams traded misses, Tyler knocked down a jumper at 16:47 to knot the scoring at 34-34. UTSA then turned the tide with a 10-0 stretch, covering nearly three minutes, to claim a 44-34 advantage at the 14:14 mark.
Ciara Gregory ended the drought with a 3-pointer but both programs traded conversions and the Roadrunners pushed the difference to as much as 11, 52-41, by the 10:47 mark. Hillary Sigmon, who hit a triple in the first half to move her into a third-place tie on the school’s career list with 130, connected on an old-fashioned three-point play at 10:30 to start Charlotte’s push.
The 49ers mounted a 12-0 surge, holding UTSA off the scoreboard for over six minutes, to overtake the lead, 53-52, with 5:42 to play. Hammonds hit a pair of consecutive jumpers in the lane to trim the margin to one and then put Charlotte on top as the defense forced nine missed Roadrunners shots during the span.
Again, the teams traded makes and Ashley Spaletta buried a corner trey at 2:55 to give UTSA a 57-55 edge. Tyler calmly added two free throws for the game’s 10th tie, 57-57, entering the final two minutes. Adams went to work once again, however, and her jumper, coupled with another by Turner, kept the 49ers at-bay down the stretch. Sigmon muscled in a tough 12-footer with 16.4 seconds left, and after Charlotte was forced to foul down one, King missed the ensuing free throw to give the Niners one last look.
Hammonds received the in-bounds pass and drove to the hoop, only to be turned away, with UTSA securing the rebound with 0.5 seconds left and locking up the victory.
The first half featured neither team able to break out, as both played solid defense throughout the period. Following an old-fashioned three-point play by Tyler at the 14:47 mark, Bell put the Roadrunners back ahead, 8-7, with a jumper on the ensuing possession.
However, Bell’s bucket would be the last points for UTSA (10-6, 1-2 C-USA) over nearly a five-minute stretch, as the Niners tallied a 9-0 spurt, as four different players were involved in the scoring, to claim a 16-8 lead following Tyler’s layup at the 10:39 mark.
Tesha Smith ended the Roadrunners lull with two free throws at 9:52 and back-to-back 3-pointers from Ashley Spaletta and Niaga Mitchell-Cole trimmed the Charlotte advantage to three, 19-16, at 8:41. UTSA kept pushing offensively, as Bell’s layup at the 6:10 mark forced a tie before Adams’ jumper 33 seconds later gave the hosts a 24-22 lead.
Hammonds added her own traditional three-point play with 4:01 remaining, seizing the edge back for the 49ers on a temporary basis. Charlotte (8-8, 2-1 C-USA) was still up one when Gregory swished a 17-footer from the wing, expanding the margin to three, 29-26, with 2:27 left. Adams countered with a jumper on the next Roadrunners possession and Tyler added a free throw on the front-end of a one-and-one try, sending the Niners into the intermission ahead, 30-28.
Charlotte returns to action when it concludes its Texas road swing at the site of the Conference USA Championships in March. The 49ers will face UTEP, who also fell to 2-1 in league action Wednesday with a setback at Middle Tennessee, at 9:05 EST Saturday.