You learn a lot about a team when they win games that they probably should not have won.
The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team (3-3) handed the Winthrop Eagles (4-1) their first loss of the season by a final score of 63-60 on Tuesday night inside Halton Arena.
An early three from the corner by Ayanna Holmes put the 49ers on the board first. Charlotte did not get off to the start that Head Coach Cara Consuegra would have hoped for as she called an early timeout following a 5-0 run by the Eagles.
The 49ers were having trouble offensively as the Eagles were proving to be extremely effective while out-rebounding Charlotte 18-11 during the opening half.
The 49ers were finding their way to the basket, but were unable to finish most of their shots only hitting 9-33 (27.3 percent) from the field during the first half in comparison to Winthrop shooting 11-28 (39.3 percent).
Charlotte was 4-11 (36.4 percent) from outside the perimeter and 5-6 (83.3 percent) from the line at the half. The 49ers had five team steals during the first half while Winthrop had been unable to pick up even one.
Back-to-back three’s by Ciara Gregory and Lefty Webster helped cut the Winthrop lead to four at the half as the Eagles led 31-27 going into the locker room.
At the half, Gregory led the 49ers with six points followed by Holmes with five and Ny Hammonds with four.
“We talk about it as a team. It’s just not something that has clicked with us yet,” said Consuegra.
“Certainly I was on them at halftime because we weren’t playing well. They know me well enough to not let that rattle their confidence and still come out and be the team that we can be in the second half.”
The Charlotte defense looked much stronger during the second half as they were creating turnovers, forcing shot clock violations and pressuring the Eagles in the paint.
A 6-0 run by the 49ers cut the Winthrop lead to three and gave Charlotte a spark they had been missing in the first half.
The 49ers led by eight after Webster’s second and final three of the night before the Eagles would come within just one point with 1:26 left on the clock. A jumper by Hammonds put Charlotte up by three and two free throws by Hillary Sigmon pushed the lead to five with just 11 seconds on the clock.
The 49ers improved their shooting in the second half all across the floor as they went 23-66 (34.8 percent) from the field, 7-18 (38.9 percent) from outside of the perimeter and 10-12 (83.3 percent) from the line.
Winthrop out-rebounded the 49ers 48-37 from both an offensive and defensive standpoint.
“We just didn’t have quite the urgency that I expect out of our group all the time,” said Consuegra talking about the slow start in the first half.
“We just have to keep battling, we just have to keep finding a way. We weren’t hitting a lot of shots early, we didn’t have great ball movement offensively and defensively, and I just didn’t think we were really doing what we were supposed to do.”
Depth has been a concern for this team with so much youth and inexperience at the college level, but Consuegra was pleased with how her bench has stepped up in pressure situations.
“Again, you’ve got to look at the character of our team. We’re not one to give up, we’re not one to give in, and I thought we continued to fight really hard. I think you have to look at our bench,” said Consuegra.
“Without them, I’m not sure this would be the same outcome. So, I was really proud of them. As anyone knows, it’s hard to be a bench player. You don’t know when your minutes are going to come, you don’t know your roll exactly, but they came in ready.”
The 49ers travel to Las Vegas, Nev. for the Lady Rebel Round-Up and face Cincinnati on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 6:30 p.m.
Photos by Chris Crews.