CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A 50.8 percent performance from the field as a team and 57 rebounds, the third most during head coach Cara Consuegra’s three seasons, powered Charlotte women’s basketball to a 74-63 home victory over Florida Atlantic Wednesday night inside Halton Arena. The win pulls the 49ers’ record back even at 12-12 overall and in the positive side of the column with a 6-5 Conference USA mark.
Three players reached double-figure scoring, led by 18 apiece from senior Ny Hammonds and freshman Lefty Webster. To go along with her career-best point total, Webster also added a career-high 13 rebounds to lead all players and record her first career double-double. The rookie chipped in four blocked shots, another career best, three steals and a steal in 34 minutes, another career high.
Joining the pair with double-digit points was junior Ayanna Holmes with 12. She reached the plateau for the fourth time this season and first since she netted 10 at Stetson Dec. 17, 2013.
In addition to Webster’s baker dozen on the glass, redshirt junior Gabby Tyler and sophomore Kira Gordon each collected 10 boards to help the Niners win the rebounding battle, 57-to-29.
Four Owls tallied double-figure points, paced by a 14-point performance from Takia Brooks. Kimberly Smith added a dozen, while Ashley Stevenson and Latavia Dempsey each contributed 11. Florida Atlantic (13-12, 3-9 C-USA), who entered the contest among the national and conference leaders in 3-point shooting, was held to just six triples on 25 attempts. The Owls converted on 33.3 percent of their overall field goals, while allowing Charlotte to hit 50.8 percent from the floor.
The Niners’ offense got started late in the first half when Hammonds drained a 3-pointer with 1:45 left, forcing the opening period’s third tie, 30-30, and igniting a 7-0 surge to end the stanza. Charlotte took its 34-30 lead into the break without shooting a free throw for the second time in three contests, eventually coming out on top both times.
The momentum carried over into the second half as Tyler stretched the margin to six, 36-30, before Florida Atlantic countered with a 9-2 spurt in the next three minutes to reclaim a one-point lead, 39-38, with 16:45 to play. After the two teams traded buckets in the next minute, including Brooks’ tossing in a triple to put FAU on top, 42-40, Webster went to work with five straight of her own, including an old-fashioned three-point play, to give the 49ers a 45-42 cushion at 15:07.
Charlotte’s lead was never surrendered after that, although the Owls trimmed it to two two times in the next minute-and-a-half. After the second time, following a Stevenson layup at the 13:29 mark, Holmes started and ended an 8-2 Niners spurt in just over a two-minute span, widening the gap to eight, 57-49, with 11:21 remaining.
Four free throws would be all Florida Atlantic could manage during almost a four-minute period until Shaneese Bailey’s layup with 7:46 remaining to cut the gap to four, 59-55. That would be as close as the Owls would get, however, as Charlotte sprinted out to a game-high 16-point cushion, 73-57, with 3:23 left behind a 14-2 run. Six missed FAU shots during the lull enabled the 49ers to widen the lead.
Brooks finally ended Florida Atlantic’s drought with a 3-pointer at 2:50 and the visitors closed the game on a 6-1 run to decide the final score.
The game opened with the Niners scoring twice in the first minute before Smith dropped in a triple, cutting the advantage to one, 4-3. Charlotte maintained between a one and three-point edge over the course of the next nine minutes, until freshman Ciara Gregory buried a trifecta with 9:47 left to make it, 19-15, in favor of her home squad.
After Gordon pushed it to a six-point difference on the next 49ers possession, the Owls answered with an 8-0 spurt, including a three-point play by Stevenson and a triple from Dempsey, to overtake the Niners, 23-21, at 7:27.
The two teams again alternated baskets before Smith’s 3-pointer with 3:46 to go provided FAU with a three-point advantage, 28-25. Gregory went to the hoop for a layup just over a minute later and Dempsey’s counter on the other end helped set up the final sequence in which Charlotte took control.
The 49ers will next hit the road for a 4 p.m. EST tip in Murfreesboro, Tenn., against preseason Conference USA favorite and current league leader Middle Tennessee. The contest will be televised through the Conference USA package and be shown locally on SportsSouth. It marks the first meeting between the two programs on the hardwood.
Charlotte Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Cara Consuegra
This was a great win for us for a number of reasons. We had some very clear goals for ourselves in order to win. First, you have to defend the three against Florida Atlantic, and our goal was to allow six makes and 20 attempts. They were 6-for-25 so I thought our team did a great job of locking in. Transition defense against them is huge. I thought our team busted their tails for 40 minutes to run with this team, disrupt them and to not let them score anything easily. Offensively, we had to outscore them. They are tough with the style that they play as well as the threes that they can shoot. Our offense had to execute well and for us to shoot 50 percent in a game is a tremendous effort.
Ny was unbelievable in the first half and Lefty was unbelievable in the second half. Ayanna had a great game as well and they really carried us. We had some people step up. We had some fouls early. Hillary and Gabby didn’t have their best game, but we didn’t let it control us. We stepped up as a team and we did some really good things. We fought hard for 40 minutes and it’s always good to win at home. This is what we want to see out of our team every night. When we do that, we have a chance to be in every game that we play.
On team’s rebounding effort
We thought we could have more offensive rebounds than they did defensive rebounds. And frankly that was an advantage that we had. Our kids were really locked in on doing that and doing it well. To have three with double-figure rebounding, and two more to have seven. We have had incredible improvement in rebounding as the year has gone on.
On halftime adjustments
I’m not sure that it was anything that I said. We talked about executing better and I didn’t think that our screening was consistently good in the first half. Turnovers have been a problem for us and I think it is a lack of focus. We have been addressing it in practice and we are trying to improve. That’s probably the one area where we are disappointed, but I think our players came out and executed better. We looked at how they were playing us and we were able to make shots tonight. When we can do that, we are pretty good offensively.
On improvements in Lefty Webster’s game this season
I think it’s confidence and becoming comfortable. As she has become comfortable in what we need from her, she has consistently gotten better and become such a key team member. She is the type of player that will be anything we need her to be. Tonight, we needed an extra scoring punch and she brought it. She played tremendous defense on No. 10 from FAU (Kimberly Smith) and getting those blocks. She is able to do whatever is asked of her and that is pretty impressive coming from a freshman.
Senior Ny Hammonds
On feel from jump shots
I was just out there playing.
On wisdom being a senior for future players
Time goes by fast. Don’t take this for granted and play hard every chance you get.
Freshman Lefty Webster
On changes in her game at this point in the season
I just do what is open. If it’s rebounding, then I go there. If I see an opportunity to score, then I take it and I just keep scoring.
On other areas to improve upon
I need to stay confident and do whatever is asked of me. I also need to try to help my team out as much as I can.