The Charlotte 49ers (1-0) hosted the Liberty Flames (0-1) on Friday night in the first home game of the season inside Halton Arena.
Sophomores Kira Gordon and Tori Carter made their debut as starters for the 49ers against the Flames.
The 49ers were undermanned early on when starter Gabby Tyler picked up two early fouls forcing the team to dig into their bench.
Both teams started off accumulating more turnovers than they would have liked as the Flames had 17 to Charlotte’s 12 at the half. Carter led the 49ers in the opening half with eight points tying her career high and was 4-6 from the field.
Gordon, Ayanna Holmes and Lefty Webster each had four points at the half with Gordon leading the team in steals with three.
The 49ers were almost perfect at the line making 10-11 (90.9 percent) en route to a 29-17 lead heading into the locker room. Liberty finished the half with 15 rebounds to Charlotte’s 14.
The Flames shot 5-6 (83.3 percent) from the three-point line in the second half and out rebounded Charlotte 31-27 throughout the game. With the loss of former 49ers Amanda Dowe and Jennifer Hailey, Charlotte lost 65 percent of their rebounding. The rebounding, or lackthereof, appears to be one of the biggest dilemmas the 49ers will run into this season.
“We don’t use youth as an excuse. Everybody knows that we are a young team,” said Head Coach Cara Consuegra.
“It’s not something we talk about because we expect—it doesn’t matter how old you are or what year you are in school—we expect our team to execute and play up to the standards in our program.”
Carter led the 49ers with 14 points, a new career high. The sophomore was 6-12 from the field and 2-3 at the line on the day with two steals and two rebounds.
“It felt great. Last year, I understood that I was learning a lot, and I accepted my role and worked hard this summer,” said Carter regarding her first career start.
The 49ers finished the day 21-46 (45.7 percent) from the field, 2-12 (16.7 percent) from behind the three-point line and 22-27 (81.5 percent) from the line. Tyler finished with 13 points and two blocks. Gordon finished with eight points and three steals.
Charlotte dominated defensively forcing 30 turnovers, and Consuegra recognized the significance in that.
“We didn’t have a lot of defensive mistakes, and I was really proud of that. Forcing them to 30 turnovers has been our goal for coming into this season,” said Consuegra.
“Really great win for us. Liberty is a story program in terms of their success. It was a really great opening match for us, and I’m really proud of our team for getting a win. We knew it was going to be a tough game, and we knew it would be a battle. I thought we did a tremendous job executing our defensive game plan, which is really good for a young team.”
The 49ers hit the road and travel to Kansas State on Sunday, Nov. 10. Tip off is set for 1:30 p.m.
Photos by Ben Coon and Chris Crews.