The Charlotte 49ers (9-9, 3-2) and the Tulane Green Wave (13-5, 4-1) met on Wednesday evening inside Halton Arena in an important Conference USA battle with both teams tied for second place in the league. The two teams proved to be evenly matched as 40 minutes wasn’t enough to decide the contest. The Green Wave were able to pull out a slim 78-76 victory over the 49ers in an exciting overtime fight to remain in second place behind only Middle Tennessee State.
“Obviously this was a very tough loss for us tonight,” said Charlotte Head Coach Cara Consuegra postgame.
“This is a very deep league, it is much better than the A-10 and we’re going to see a lot of teams that are capable of coming in here and giving us a game like this. You’ve got to be able to protect your home court. I thought that defensively we really let each other down. It was just too easy for them.”
The 49ers and Green Wave battled back-and-forth through a tightly contested first half where the largest lead for either side was just eight points when Tulane captured a 16-8 advantage following the second of back-to-back three point baskets with 13:27 left to play in the opening 20 minutes of the contest.
Following a timeout by Coach Consuegra, Charlotte buckled down on the defensive end of the court and took advantage of a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to just one point at 16-15. The 49ers never could quite capture the lead in the first half as the Green Wave led from tip to buzzer and held a 29-26 advantage as the two teams headed into the locker room at halftime.
Tulane came into the game as the best three-point shooting team in Conference USA, knocking down 38 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc on the season. The long ball was the difference maker between the two squads in the first half as the Green Wave hit 4-9 (44.4 percent) from behind the three-point line, and Charlotte failed to connect on any of their six attempts from deep.
Junior point guard Jamie Kaplan led the way for the Green Wave as she poured in a game-high 10 points in the first half on 4-7 shooting from the field to go along with her team-high three assists.
The 49ers came out of the locker room with a much more aggressive mindset on the offensive side of the ball and utilized a quick 9-0 scoring run to capture their first lead of the contest and grab a 38-32 advantage.
Unfortunately for Charlotte, foul trouble halted all their momentum as Gabby Tyler, Hillary Sigmon and Alexis Alexander all picked up their third foul early in the second half. Tulane responded with an 8-0 run of their own against the 49ers bench and recaptured the lead at 48-47 with 9:55 left to play in the contest.
The Green Wave switched to a two-three zone on the defensive end of the court that gave Charlotte some problems as the 49ers continued to struggle from beyond the three-point line.
The 49ers found themselves trailing 61-55 with three minutes left on the clock and that’s when Charlotte finally got the ball to drop from behind the arc. Freshman guard Lefty Webster knocked down two huge threes in the final minutes, including the game-tying triple that knotted the score at 65-65 with 20 seconds remaining in the game to send the contest into overtime.
“We didn’t give up, and we really battled. We got a key stop to get the game into overtime and I thought that our team would really take off from there, but then we let them shoot 50 percent in overtime and we couldn’t convert on the offensive end,” said Consuegra.
Charlotte appeared to have all the momentum heading into the extra period, but Tulane star Danielle Blagg finally got it going as she dropped eight of her 19 points on the night in overtime. Blagg knocked down two shots in overtime, including a big triple that broke a 72-72 tie and gave the Green Wave a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Tyler earned a trip to the free throw line with the 49ers trailing 78-76 with just three ticks left on the clock. Tyler missed the first of her two attempts so she was then forced to miss the second free throw on purpose with little time remaining in the game. Tyler clanked the second shot off of the rim but Charlotte was unable to grab the rebound effectively ending the contest.
“This is a really tough loss to take, but Tulane is a really good team,” said Consuegra.
“We just have to keep battling. Like I said, this league is going to be like this. We’ve got to learn how to close out close games and we need to get one on Saturday at home.”
The Charlotte 49ers will remain at home for their next game when they take on the Rice Owls on Saturday evening inside Halton. Charlotte and Rice are currently tied for third place in C-USA. Tip-0ff for that contest is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Photos by Ben Coon.