Octavia Wilson huddles with her teammates. Photo by Chris Crews

Freshman Octavia Wilson dropped 21 points, senior Amaya Ransom added 15, but their efforts were not enough as the Charlotte 49ers fell to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at home, 77-54. The Niners (1-2), who were playing their second Power 5 opponent in a week, struggled to take care of the ball and to score against Rutgers’ (3-0) pressure. Charlotte played Rutgers evenly for three quarters, but a sluggish start and 22-6 deficit after the first quarter proved too difficult to overcome.

The Scarlet Knights were led by guard Tyler Scaife’s 18 points, and Jazlynd Rollins added 13 points and five assists. Caitlin Jenkins added nine points and nine boards for a near double-double off the bench. The Scarlet Knights flexed their muscles inside as they had a clear height advantage in the post.

“Hats off to Rutgers. Obviously, they played a tremendous game,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “We knew they were going to press for 40 minutes. We knew their game was to turn us over and get easy buckets, and unfortunately that’s what they were able to do against us. … For us, the disappointing thing for us was our start. … We start this game better, maybe we have an opportunity to be in the game instead of fighting back the entire time.”

Charlotte committed 28 turnovers to 13 by Rutgers. 10 of those errors were committed by junior Laia Raventos, who was often trapped in the corner of Rutgers’ fullcourt press. She, Ransom, and freshman Mariah Linney were the only real ball handlers against the Scarlet Knights, and the team struggled. 20 of Charlotte’s turnovers were steals made by Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights had seven different players record at least two steals in the contest.

The Niners’ poor shooting compounded that issue. In the first quarter, Charlotte shot 2-for-13 (15.4 percent) from the floor, and a third of their points came from the free throw line. Rutgers started the game on an 8-0 run, prompting a timeout by Consuegra. During the frame, Rollins netted six points, mostly off of steals in the backcourt or in their halfcourt zone. Charlotte also played a 2-3 and 3-2 matchup zone to offset Rutgers’ height, but the zone resulted in numerous long offensive rebounds and deep catches by Jenkins, Stasha Carey and Mael Gilles. Carey and Gilles both finished with six points and six boards each.

In the second quarter, Charlotte found life by attacking and getting to the line. Wilson, who scored 15 of her 21 points from the charity stripe, scored 10 points in the quarter to keep Charlotte within distance. However, Scaife scored eight points in the quarter for the Scarlet Knights, who seemed to get a timely steal and layup anytime the Niners seemed to get on a run. Charlotte shot 5-11 (45.5 percent) in the second quarter, but by that point, Rutgers’ had racked up 22 points off of turnovers and scored 16 more points in the paint (off the help of six steals).

The Niners’ poor shooting followed them into the third quarter, as they only hit 3-11 of their field goal attempts. Meanwhile, Wilson continued to be aggressive, driving the lane at will and picking up eight more points at the line. The Scarlet Knights capitalized on five more steals, many of them coming on lobs and cross-court passes that the Niners threw in trying to get over halfcourt. Charlotte went into the fourth trailing 61-39.

Ransom finally eclipsed double-figure scoring in the final quarter, as she scored seven of her 15 points. Myers scored inside and grabbed two more rebounds to push her totals to seven points and six boards, and the defense forced two shot clock violations. Overall, the Niners shot nine more free throws and had 33 attempts for the game, but Rutgers outscored them 16-15 in the final frame, and finished with 52 points in the paint. The Scarlet Knights continued to press, and they won the game 77-54.

“We have to be better. There’s no excuse for being young,” Consuegra said. “We have to grow up, and we have to understand who we’re playing and who we’re not. … Offensively, we have to get better at playing our roles…. we’re not bought in to that yet. And until we buy into that, we’re gonna have nights like this.”

“For us, it’s about how we bring our energy,” Wilson added. “Energy is everything to starting and finsihing a game. … starting out the game, you could see Rutgers had a lot more energy, and we were playing kind of lackadaisical. … personally, I don’t like losing, so that’s kind of what brings out the competitiveness in me.”

On another high note, forward Dara Pearson led all players with 12 rebounds, which accounted for a third of the team’s total rebounds. Despite being shorter than Rutgers’ frontcourt, the Niners grabbed 36 board to the Scarlet Knights’ 38, and most of Rutgers’ offensive rebounds were a function of getting long rebounds. The team settled for long, contested two-point jumpshots against Charlotte’s zone, and Charlotte’s bigs weren’t always in position.

The Niners will be back in action on Saturday as they’ll take on UNC Asheville on the road at 2 p.m. The game will be Charlotte’s second road contest and can be heard on Charlotte49ersRadio.com.

Zach Timmons, better known as ZT, is a junior at UNC Charlotte. He is an English major and is also minoring in journalism. In his free time, ZT enjoys writing spoken word poetry, drawing, and making beats.