Nyilah Jamison-Myers looked like her old self on the way to recording 17 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, but the Charlotte 49ers were unable to defeat the visiting Rice Owls, losing 62-55. Jamison-Myers was flanked in double-figures by Laia Raventos’ 16 points, five dimes and three steals, and Octavia Wilson’s 10 points. However, the Niners missed all 11 of their three-point attempts and couldn’t stay afloat in the first half.
Wendy Knight paced the Owls with 16 points and four rebounds to go with her three three-pointers. Her last shot from behind the arc came late in the shot clock with less than 90 seconds remaining that gave Rice a 10-point cushion. Erica Ogwumike, who came in the game as their leading scorer, finished with 14 points on 6-10 shooting and seven boards, and Nicole Iademarco finished with 10 points.
“Obviously, it was a story of two halves when I think of this game. I’m really proud of just our resiliency in the second half. I challenged the kids at halftime to just come out and play harder,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “Quite honestly, if there was three more minutes in this game, we could have won the game. We have to be better for 40 minutes. That has kind of been the theme of this team for much of the season.”
The Niners, who were starting Lauren Harley for the first time ever, fell behind early due to Rice’s hot shooting. The Owls hit nine of their 12 field goals in the first quarter on the way to 22 points. While both teams relatively even during the first part of the period, the Owls went on a 7-0 run halfway through before Charlotte was able to respond. The Niners used a three-quarter court press to force a few steals, but Knight knocked in a treyball at the first quarter buzzer to give them the 22-13 lead going into the second frame.
The second quarter proved to be fatal for the Niners, as they never really got the ball rolling. The Owls shot worse (3-14) than Charlotte did (4-10) in the quarter, but the Niners kept turning the ball over. Meanwhile, the Owls drew a number of fouls and went 8-9 from the line. One key play came at the end of the half, when Raventos tried to make a spin move to the basket but Rice’s Taylor Bennett drew a charge and hit free throws in the bonus. Those free throws allowed Rice to outscore the 49ers 15-8 in the period and gave them a commanding 37-21 halftime lead.
After halftime, Charlotte found new life, as they went on an 8-2 run on the strength of three straight steals. Jamison-Myers asserted herself, as Rice had no answer for her down low. Raventos also scored some timely buckets. The Niners’ 2-3 zone stifled the Owls, only surrendering seven points in the frame. The 49ers went into the fourth quarter down 44-35 as they continued their comeback.
Raventos and Jamison-Myers continued to lead the charge back, and it was Wilson who finally cut the deficit to four points after a floater in the lane. Charlotte’s defense continued to carry them, as they forced a lot of contested midrange shots late in the clock and also forced two shot clock violations. However, Rice began to respond with timely baskets when they were really needed. Knight’s last three-pointer gave the Owls some breathing room, and Charlotte was forced to play catchup. Jamison-Myers and Raventos both knocked in crucial free throws, but the Niners didn’t get into the bonus until the final minute, and they ran out of time. The Owls walked away with the 62-55 win, improving to 14-3 on the year and 4-1 in Conference USA.
“We can put together great spurts where we look really good but we lose that team for a couple of minutes,” Consuegra said. “That consistency– we just haven’t grasped yet. We just have to keep working, and we’re going to keep working. We have to continue to find that team that can put together 40 minutes in a game.”
The Niners, who are now 6-12 on the year and 2-3 in conference play, will look to even out their record as they’ll head to Southern Mississippi on Thursday. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and is the first of a two-game road trip.