The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team opened up the new season with a convincing 70-53 victory against the visiting UNC Asheville Bulldogs. The Niners finished the game with four players in double figures and six players with at least eight points. Jade Phillips led the way for the Niners with 16 points and eight rebounds in only 23 minutes of action. Laia Raventós, Christian Hithe and Jazmin Harris totaled 10 points each while Octavia Jett-Wilson and Mariah Linney finished with eight points apiece as well.
On the other side, Charlotte held the Bulldogs to only one player in double figures. Sonora Dengokl finished the game with 18 points off of 7-for-12 shooting, three rebounds and two steals.
Charlotte opened up the game strong, as the Niners took a quick 11-0 lead in the first quarter, forcing the Bulldogs to call an early timeout. Raventós, who was named apart of the Preseason All Conference-USA Team, got involved early as she scored the first five points of the game. Raventós also scored or assisted on the first 14 points of the game for the Niners. Linney closed out the first quarter with a three-pointer, as the Niners ended the opening quarter with a 17-6 lead. Harris stood strong inside the paint for the Niners as she recorded three blocks in the first quarter.
The Niners took a 26-8 lead when they opened the quarter on an 8-0 run by playing great defense by trapping the Bulldogs in the half court and forcing turnovers, which allowed easy buckets on the other end. With the score at 31-11, the Niners would score their next eight points in the paint by scoring off of offensive rebounds and easy layups. Charlotte committed a turnover late in the quarter which allowed an easy layup for the Bulldogs. Jett-Wilson made a free throw to close out the quarter and the Niners went into halftime up 40-21. Charlotte shot 16-for-30 and went 6-for-11 from behind the arc in the first half.
Jessica Wall and Dengokl scored the first four points of the second half for the Bulldogs, cutting the deficit down to 15. However, Charlotte wound respond by scoring the next 11 points and taking a 51-25 lead. The Bulldogs would go on to score nine points in the final minutes of the third quarter, but the Niners still held a 59-36 lead heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was all UNC Asheville, as the Bulldogs outscored Charlotte 17-11 in the fourth quarter. Charlotte committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, which allowed the Bulldogs to score 10 points off those turnovers in the final quarter but it wasn’t enough as the lead was too large to mount a comeback. With Charlotte leading 65-44 with 4:07 remaining, Charlotte’s head coach, Cara Consuegra, took all of her starters off the court and let the young freshman close out the game. Maddie Moore scored the final point of the game at the free throw line for the Niners as the game ended with a Charlotte 70-53 victory.
Coach Consuegra emphasized how she wanted to be a better rebounding team and it showed tonight, as the Niners totaled 17 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded UNC Asheville 41-32. The offensive rebounds in the game were huge for the Niners, as they finished the game with 17 second-chance points compared to the Bulldogs six points.
“That (rebounding) was something we struggled with last season, so we set some higher goals for us as a team and we achieved both of them tonight being able to out-rebound Asheville by nine and have 17 offensive boards is what this team is capable of,” Coach Consuegra said.
Consuegra was also pleased with the depth of her team tonight, as six players finished with eight or more points and the team totaled 31 bench points in the game.
“It’s a luxury for us. I think what it has helped us to do is play at the pace we want to play,” Coach Consuegra said. “We got into a little foul trouble tonight but it wasn’t that concerning because you have someone else that you can just bring in right behind those folks.”
Charlotte held the Bulldogs to 41.5 percent shooting, 0-for-10 from the three-point line and forced 19 turnovers on the night.
“We’ve always been strong on the offensive end, but defensively we’ve been kind of middle of the pack, and we feel like for us to take the next step as a team, we have to be a better defensive team,” Coach Consuegra said. “To me, defense is about wanting to. There’s a lot of players who score, but maybe don’t want to defend. I feel like as a group they want to defend.”
Charlotte returns to the court on Sunday, Nov. 11 when they take on Wofford in Halton Arena at 2 p.m.