Libby Weihsmann

Libby Weihsmann is the 2013-2014 Sports Editor for the Niner Times. She is pursuing a Communications Studies degree with a concentration in Mass Media and a minor in Journalism at UNC Charlotte.

49ers baseball’s Butler pitches complete game against Tulane

In game two of what would end up being a two-game series due to the final match being cancelled due to rain, the Charlotte 49ers (11-24-1, 4-13) pitched their second complete game in three showings with Ryan Butler (3-5) helping lift Charlotte 2-1 over the Tulane Green Wave (15-22, 6-13).

The Green Wave’s Richard Carthon wasted no time showing Charlotte that they meant business when he crushed the opening pitch down the left-field line. A Jake Rogers sac-bunt pushed Carthon over to third base. Tulane’s Garrett Deschamp sent Carthon home on a groundout giving the Green Wave their first and only run of the game.

Butler pitched five perfect frames retiring 10-straight batters, but the 49ers were unable to do much on offense until the bottom of the fourth inning.

Charlotte catcher Brett Lang was able to score from a Tulane fielding error at third when Des Roberts sent one out to the left-center gap. With Roberts on third, T.J. Nichting’s sacrifice fly sent Roberts home giving the 49ers a 2-1 lead over the Green Wave.

The Charlotte offense could not get much going throughout the rest of the game, but a flawless defense in the later innings helped hold Tulane from taking the lead.

“That’s probably the best infield defense we’ve played all year,” said Head Coach Loren Hibbs.

“Overall, when you can win a game you don’t get a lot of hits or really do a whole lot offensively and still win, that’s a good day.”

Butler finished the day throwing nine complete innings allowing just four hits, one run, two walks and five strikeouts facing 33 batters and throwing 108 pitches.

The 49ers will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. on Tuesday, April 22 to face Wake Forest in one of their two final non-conference matches of the season. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Charlotte 49ers football: ‘Bigger, faster, stronger’

Photo by Chris Crews.

Last spring, the Charlotte 49ers were putting the final touches on the first-ever football team. This spring, things are a little different around Jerry Richardson Stadium.

“We’re getting bigger, faster, stronger. The offensive line looks huge,” said free safety Desmond Cooper.

“It’s my last spring ball. It’s crazy, interesting. It’s crazy to see how things have gone. I’m just trying to think about my last season coming up.”

The 49ers are in their final week of spring practices as they prepare for the spring game on Saturday, April 5 at noon.

“Our energy level has been really good. I think the kids are real comfortable with what we’re doing. There is nothing new to them anymore,” said Head Coach Brad Lambert, who led the team to a 5-6 finish in 2013.

“It’s fun to watch the new guys get infused. Our guys have done a really good job with their energy and effort, and I’ve really been proud of that.”

With so many of the defensive line injured, Lambert says they’ll play the spring game just like they did in last year’s.

“We’ll put the one’s on one team and the two’s on another, and kind of divide them into two teams and let the clock run,” said Lambert, who remains cautious about his injured defensive line.

“Our problem is defensive line. We’re hurt a little bit with so many of our defensive line guys out, so that’s been a little difficult for us. We’re just so thin there that we’ve got to be careful.”

Despite the injuries that have plagued the team, the excitement to work and put in the extra effort is there.

Whether it be watching film or lifting more weights, Lambert says the team has taken advantage of the time they’ve had during the offseason and the practices they’ve been able to get in so far this spring.

“Because of last year, we know we can be better than that with the little things we’re taking care of,” said quarterback Matt Johnson.

“I think a lot of the guys are really excited. It’s easy for 100 guys to get up at 6 a.m. when they know they’re working towards something really, really cool.”

The “first-ever” pressure has been removed as the team can no longer use that as a crutch, but Johnson admits that this 2014 season will bring a different type of pressure.

“Last year was a test to let everyone see what we were. This year, there’s even more pressure. You’ve got to do better than you did last year,” said Johnson.

“People expect something out of you. People see that pressure and that’s a healthy pressure to feel. That pressure to get a little better than we did last year.”

The pressure that Johnson feels has worked in his favor according to Lambert.

“Confidence. That’s the number one thing. You can see that everything is slowing down for him,” said Lambert.

“Nothing’s new to him. He’s just got a ton of confidence. Lee [McNeil] is pushing him, so it’s not like he can come out here and have a bad day. He’s got to do well everyday. The confidence factor is just huge for him right now.”

The offseason can be long, but Lambert says it has motivated the team to work even harder in practices. The long break from being on the field has helped boost the energy level in and out of the locker room.

“We have to continue to establish how we’re going to move into Conference USA, so that’s been a real focus for our team through this offseason,” said Lambert.

The 49ers will join Conference USA in 2015 after two years as an FCS Independent team. Charlotte will become bowl eligible in 2016.

“This whole year from January to next January is going to be critical in how we set up for Division-I ball,” said Lambert.

“How we play and how we show up and what we do on the field is really critical in going into 2015, so that’ll be our big push with them in this 2014 year.”

For the team, they’re offseason work and conditioning will speak for itself when the 49ers take the field on Saturday.

“Right now, it’s grind time. That’s all we’ve been thinking about right now. We’re in overtime right now.”

Niner Access: Final 49ers Coaches Show

Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball Head Coach Alan Major and Athletic Director Judy Rose took questions from the fans and were on hand to give their final thoughts on the last 49ers Coaches Show of the season hosted by ESPN730 on Monday night at Dave & Buster’s. Fans in attendance were encouraged to write questions to be asked. For those not able to make the show, they were encouraged to call in their questions or submit them through social media. Monday night’s crowd was the largest showing of Niner Nation all year thanks to Rose making her first appearance since the end of Charlotte men’s basketball’s disappointing season.

Communication helped lift Charlotte 49ers 74-63 over ODU

The Charlotte 49ers recognized Senior Ben Cherry prior to the game. Photo by Chris Crews.

For the Charlotte 49ers (15-13, 6-9), winning as of late has been a struggle, but the team found a way to make a statement 74-63 win in their final home game of the season over the Old Dominion Monarchs (14-16, 8-7) on Senior Day.

Prior to the 4 p.m. tip-off, the Charlotte 49ers recognized senior Ben Cherry on the court with his parents for Senior Day. Cherry, a Tulane transfer, is the only senior on the Charlotte team.

“For a guy like Ben Cherry, who’s been a wonderful teammate, forget the three point shooting; he’s been a wonderful teammate, a tremendous person for this roster,” said Head Coach Alan Major.

“To close it out with him, him being a Charlotte guy with his family in the stands, it was a special day to close it out for his sake. Good win for various reasons.”

The 49ers got off to an early 10-6 lead at the first media timeout with 14:43 to play in the first half. Charlotte held a 9-3 advantage on the boards early on and had yet to commit a single turnover, something they’ve struggled with as of late.

Willie Clayton finished the game with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Photo by Chris Crews.

Willie Clayton asserted his presence early on by dominating under the basket going 5-7 for 10 points in the first half along with four offensive rebounds and one defensive board.

“We went back to practice, just looked at film and we analyzed the games that we lost,” said Clayton.

“The games that we lost, we didn’t communicate with each other. We didn’t talk in the game; some people were quiet and some people were talking. In this game, we wanted to come back and said, ‘Let’s talk,’ so that’s why got more talking in.”

Though Charlotte was lacking the urgency that Major has said is necessary in order to win games, the 49ers went into the locker room with a 32-26 lead over the Monarchs.

“We feel like we should always throw the first punch,” said Pierria Henry.

“After the first punch, we try to throw combo’s. We try to be a 40-minute team, play from start to finish. The more and more games we play and the more and more talk we have in our locker rooms, the more and more mistakes we learn from, and the adversity builds our character. It builds our brotherhood and makes us become closer.”

At the half, Charlotte was 14-29 (48.3 percent) from the field, 2-8 (25 percent) from the three and 2-3 (66.7 percent) from the line. The 49ers found a way to keep their turnovers to a minimum as they only committed five in the opening half.

ODU opened the second half scoring six quick points and forced the 49ers to commit two turnovers at the first timeout.

Coming out of the quick break, the 49ers went on a 8-1 run before the next timeout pushing their lead back to nine. Henry was able to find Mike Thorne for an alley-oop dunk that gave fans something to cheer about.

“I’ve been watching a lot of film, learning from my mistakes these past few games. Just understanding that it starts with me taking care of the ball; it’s contagious,” said Henry.

Freshman forward Marcus Bryan had 10 points along with four rebounds and two assists. Photo by Chris Crews.

“With my assists, I’ve got to give that all up to my teammates. They were just working to get open and being able to knock down the shots. They make my job so much easier. I give it all to them.”

With 14:03 to play in the game, the 49ers held a comfortable 51-38 lead over the Monarchs. By not allowing the Monarchs to take a lead throughout the entire game and forcing ODU to commit 14 turnovers, the 49ers snapped their six-game losing streak taking a 74-63 win.

The 49ers finished the day shooting 30-58 (51.7 percent) from the field, 6-18 (33.3 percent) from deep and 8-12 (66.7 percent) from the line.

Both Clayton and Thorne finished the day with 14 points followed by Marcus Bryan with 10. Henry finished the day with seven points and 10 assists.

“I thought our guys had great purpose getting the ball around the rim early in the game not settling for jump shots,” said Major.

“I was just really happy the way the guys looked for each other. 21 out of 30 baskets were assisted, so that kind of says it all right there.”

Communication on the court might have helped the 49ers earn a win in their last home game of the season, but they’ll be tested when they return to the court on Thursday, March 6 at Marshall. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

Photos by Chris Crews.

49ers women’s basketball team shuts down FIU 79-68

Senior Ny Hammonds recorded the second triple-double in program history finishing the night with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists. Photo by Ben Coon

In quite possibly their best second half performance of the season, the Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team (13-13, 7-6) defeated the Florida International Panthers (12-15, 6-8) 79-68 on Wednesday night inside Halton Arena.

At the first media timeout, the 49ers found themselves trailing by two points. Both Charlotte and FIU lacked urgency on the court despite the close score, but that urgency kicked in when it mattered.

“We feel a lot of urgency to win these last few games, and I thought in the second half of this game in particular, you saw that,” said Head Coach Cara Consuegra.

“They were down, we got tougher, and that’s what we’re going to have to do for three more games now. We have to be the tougher team; we have to stay focused. We just have to be focused on who we are.”

In the first half, Hillary Sigmon led the way for the 49ers with 11 points after going 4-8 from the field and 3-7 from outside the perimeter.

Ny Hammonds, who was recognized on the court with Consuegra prior to the tip for breaking Charlotte’s all-time career assist record, had six points and six assists heading into the tunnel.

After the first half, Charlotte held a 37-32 lead over FIU. The 49ers were shooting 15-32 (46.9 percent) from the field, 5-11 (45.5 percent) from outside the perimeter and 2-2 (100 percent) from the line.

The 49ers came out of the tunnel in the second half as if they were a new team. Hammonds picked up the tempo and the rest seemingly fell in place as Charlotte shot 20-34 (58.8 percent) from the field in the second half alone. It was the electric performance from stat sheet-filling Hammonds that helped her record a triple-double, only the second triple-double recorded in program history and the first since 1982.

“I was actually trying to get it. I really was, that was one of my goals I set at the beginning of the year when Coach gave us a goal sheet,” said Hammonds, who finished the night with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists.

“I wanted to get a triple-double, so I’m excited. My teammates made me even more happy because they’re supporting me and they’re happy for me.

As the oldest one on the team, Hammonds has had to take on the leadership role of the team. Being the only senior, the pressure has been real.

“I think it’s more of a responsibility. Last year, there was pressure and I had low confidence, but now I’m starting to understand that it’s my responsibility,” said Hammonds.

“It’s great to hear Ny say that it’s a great responsibility to have because she’s absolutely right,” said Consuegra.

“When you have a senior that embraces that and realizes that it matters everyday what you do and what you don’t do, that’s huge, and I’m excited for her. It will end on a good note for her.”

The tempo change and the contribution of double-figure scoring from four other 49ers helped Charlotte pick up a confidence-boosting win over the Panthers.

Lefty Webster scored 11 in the second half to tally 17 points on the night followed by Sigmon with 15, Gabby Tyler with 14 and Kira Gordon with 11. Webster had the challenge of teaming up against Jerica Coley, FIU’s star guard.

“I was just trying to keep her in front of us. When she jumped up, because she jumps really high when she shoots, I just tried to test her without fouling,” said Webster.

“She wasn’t too quick or anything to make us do anything different.”

The 49ers finished the night shooting 35-66 (53 percent) from the field, 5-12 (41.7 percent) from deep and 4-5 (80 percent) from the line.

“First of our four that we are trying to go after right here and move forward, and try to duplicate this again on Saturday,” said Consuegra.

“Just a great effort from our group as a whole. I’m really proud of them.”

Charlotte will play their last home game of the regular season on Saturday, March 1 at 7 p.m. when they host Marshall.

Photos by Ben Coon.

Charlotte 49ers baseball steps up to the plate with four games in three days during opening weekend

The Charlotte 49ers celebrate a run scored in the win over the Siena Saints in 2013. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers baseball team will open their 2014 season back in Conference USA at home inside Robert & Mariam Hayes Stadium, playing four games in just three days.

The 49ers will play Youngstown State Friday, Feb. 14 at 4 p.m.; the ACC’s Virginia Tech on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 12 p.m.; and then play a double header against Youngstown State at 12 p.m.; and Virginia Tech at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16.

In their final season in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Charlotte was looking to clinch a conference championship in front of a home crowd as the 49ers played host to the A-10 Tournament.

After defeating Rhode Island and Xavier in the first and second rounds of the conference tournament, the 49ers faced the Saint Louis Billikens in what would have crowned Charlotte the conference champions.

Saint Louis had fallen to Xavier in the first round of the tournament, meaning the 49ers could knock them out completely with a win or be forced to play the Billikens in a double header to determine the conference champion and recipient of the automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. The latter happened and the 49ers finished as runners up in the A-10 Conference Championship, ending their season with a 37-23 record.

The 49ers will enter the competitive C-USA league with five seniors and three redshirt seniors. Charlotte graduated seven seniors after the 2013 season and lost juniors Justin Seager and Tyler Barnette to the draft.

Despite the significant infield losses to the roster, the 49ers bullpen looks to be solid with the return of key pitchers from the previous season.

“We’re a little bit older pitching wise. We’ve got a lot of older guys that have been around here two, three, even four years,” said Head Coach Loren Hibbs.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are older pitchers, and to be quite honest, we’re going to need for those guys to compete at a high level to help some of our younger guys and our position players get their feet wet.”

Brock Hudgens, a senior right-handed pitcher, has the third lowest opponent batting average at .223 in program history. Hudgens made the First-Team All-Atlantic 10 team during the final season in the A-10. Hudgens also set a team season-best streak of 14 innings without allowing a single run.

Senior right-handed pitcher Hunter May tied for second in the A-10 with eight wins and was the only player in the top 10 in the league to record those wins without a start. In the 2013 season, May did not allow a stolen base.

Preseason All-Conference USA junior Brad Elwood returns as a junior for the 49ers after an impressive 2013 campaign. After starting in outfield, Elwood played majority of the season at second base. Elwood was rated the third toughest batter to strikeout in the NCAA at the end of the 2013 regular season and led the team with a .343 batting average.

“Elwood’s played a lot of different spots. He’s played in the infield, he’s played in the outfield and he played second base for us a good bit last year,” said Hibbs.

Brett Lang, a redshirt sophomore, returns to the 49ers with 27 games under his belt as a catcher. Lang was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team last season and was named A-10 Rookie of the Week once during the 2013 campaign.

Charlotte’s Des Roberts, a Garden City Community College transfer, redshirted during the 2013 campaign and will play in the outfield for the 49ers.

Charlotte also welcomes back redshirt senior Corbin Shive after he redshirted the 2013 season along with Roberts. In the 2012 season, he made 49 starts, 21 of them at first base.

C-USA’s Rice, Florida Atlantic and East Carolina were all listed in the top 35 of the NCAA preseason rankings. Charlotte will face a league team 30 times throughout the season playing every C-USA member with the exception of Rice and Marshall. Charlotte will play 35 home games in the 2014 season at the Hayes.

Hibbs returns to the 49ers in his 22nd season with the team. The all-time winningest coach at Charlotte is just 31 wins away from reaching 700 victories.

“We’re excited to get the season going. Excited to be back in Conference USA. We were one of the charter members in Conference USA and we made a decision to dive back in. It’s not very often in life that you get a chance to do something twice, so it’s pretty cool,” said Hibbs.

“The league RPI has been no less than fifth in the country for 17 out of the 18 years that the league’s been in existence. It’s a very high level of play, a lot of great players come through here. I think we’re a little bit more equipped to play in Conference USA this time than the first time around.”

Practices leading up to opening weekend are open to the public.

49ers men’s basketball team says giving up is not an option

The Charlotte 49ers huddle up during a timeout. Photo by Chris Crews

For the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team (12-7, 3-3), the first season back in Conference USA has been filled with highs and lows.

The 49ers gave fans a vision of an NCAA tournament run when they beat No. 14 Michigan to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship title earlier this season, but losses to teams like UTSA and Rice have obviously frustrated not only Niner Nation, but also the young Charlotte team.

“Any team you play, you want to play good defense. The Rice and San Antonio games you should win, you go and play at their place and let them get confident,” said Ben Cherry.

“They’re Division I college basketball players, so they’re going to play well. They hit a couple shots and get confident, and then it becomes a game as opposed to if you stomp on them early and you get up 10 or 15.”

Fans have seen the 49ers fight back to win the gritty games. In games decided by less than five points this season, Charlotte is 6-3. With a young team struggling to find their confidence and identity, the hope is not completely lost.

“If that’s our only problem, that’s so easy to fix because of the talent level that we have. You just steal their confidence. You go out there and it’s on both sides of the floor,” said Cherry.

“If you’re not having a good offensive night, play even better on defense. If you are having a good offensive night, play even better on defense. If we can start shutting people down in those close games, these five-point games aren’t going to be five-point games. They’re going to be 20-point games.”

Despite being more than halfway through the regular season, the team knows there is still time to get back on track before the Conference USA Tournament in El Paso, Texas. They also acknowledge that this is also the time so many teams fall apart.

The chemistry and brotherhood on the team has been the glue that has helped the 49ers stick together during the tough times and frustrating losses when the support hasn’t been at its highest.

“I feel like this is when you find out who really loves you. When somebody’s down, you need somebody to pick you up and right now we’re losing, we’re in a down period,” said point guard Pierria Henry.

“We’ve got to find that love and find that pride, passion to want to win again and do every little thing it takes to get over that hump. We’ve got 10 games to make that run, to make that happen.”

For Head Coach Alan Major, he sees the lack of support and the impact it has had on his squad.

“I think whenever you take a loss or two, your concerns as a coach are, ‘Are they going to lose confidence?’ I don’t think they have. They have this air about them with sticking together,” said Major.

“Sometimes that’s a reality check, too. All the people texting you after Puerto Rico aren’t texting you anymore. You learn who your friends are. That’s a good thing and when guys go through it, you say, ‘The guys that care about me are the guys in this room.’ They’ve done a really nice job of sticking together.”

With 10 games left in the regular season, the 49ers know there is still plenty of time left to make a statement. Defensive pressure and forcing opponents to take questionable shots will be key to Charlotte’s success in the remainder of the regular season.

“It’s defense first and foremost,” said Cherry.

“The shots that they’re not supposed to make when they’re not confident aren’t going to go in and when they are confident, which we’ve been giving them confidence, is those tough shots are going in.”

Confidence isn’t the only thing the 49ers will need as they finish out the season. It’s also the sixth man.

“There’s a lot of basketball left. Anything can happen in 10 games. We’re only two games behind first place,” said Cherry.

“If you’re not coming out to the games when there is that much basketball left and this much at stake, you’re not a true basketball fan.”

For Henry, giving up is not an option. With back-to-back home games coming up against Florida Atlantic (7-13, 2-3) and FIU (11-9, 3-2), Charlotte will have the chance to prove to their home crowd that they’re in the fight for the long haul.

“Stick with us. Don’t lay down, don’t give up on us. No matter the score, no matter the game or who we’re playing, we will never give up,” said Henry.

“When it comes time to get that win, we’re going to fight and make it as bloody and grimy as we can just to get it.”

49ers men’s basketball win 76-74 over North Texas with a buzzer-beating basket

No. 14 Terrence Williams (last play). Photo by Chris Crews.
Terrence Williams with a buzzer-beating basket to lift the 49ers over North Texas 76-74. Photo by Chris Crews.

The Charlotte 49ers (12-5, 3-1) have made it more apparent in the last two contests that every second counts in a game as they picked up a 76-74 victory over the North Texas Mean Green (10-8, 1-3) when Terrence Williams sealed the deal with a buzzer-beating basket that had to be confirmed by the referees at the monitor.

“When you’ve got a big man like Willie Clayton coming to set a ball screen, I just love running off of his screens. I knew once that happened that everybody was going to collapse and worry about me, and I knew they couldn’t understand the clock situation,” said Pierria Henry on the final basket.

“They didn’t know how much time we really had, so they were just swiping and jumping at everything. I was able to find my main man and finish the job.”

The 49ers got off to a hot start going on an 8-0 run in response to the Mean Green’s early two points when Ben Cherry and Henry put up back-to-back three’s. At the first timeout with 13:50 left to play in the opening half, the 49ers had not allowed North Texas to attempt any three-point shots.

The Mean Green found a way to knot the game at 13-13 with less than 12 minutes remaining in the first half, but an easy layup by Henry put the 49ers back on top.

Despite North Texas dominating in points off the bench with a 22-8 advantage, the 49ers went into the locker room with a 40-37 lead.

North Texas came out of the locker room with all the momentum in the world as Coach Major was forced to call an early timeout following a 6-0 run by the Mean Green.

The 49ers fought back and tied it at 43-43 when Cherry connected with a nice bounce pass in traffic to Mike Thorne for an easy dunk. North Texas answered back leading by as much as 11 points with just under 12 minutes left to play and giving Charlotte fans something to worry about.

Charlotte found the much needed boost they were lacking since coming out of the locker room when they went on a 10-0 run cutting the Mean Green lead to just one point.

“Straight defense. That defensive end, it just speaks for itself,” said Henry.

“When we communicate and when we slide our feet and we stick with our game plan, it’s hard to score against us. We’ve just got to get better at second chances.”

The momentum was short lived as North Texas rallied back pushing their lead to eight. With three minutes remaining in the game, the 49ers trailed by four points.

“We told them at the last timeout, being down four, just to try and win a three-minute game by one point as opposed to saying 72 to 68,” said Coach Major.

“Try to look at it like you’re down 4 to nothing with three minutes to go, and you’re basically playing a mini game and trying to win that mini game by a point. Thankfully, we won it by two.”

Williams scoring eight of Charlotte’s final 10 points helped seal the win for the 49ers, but smart ball handling in those final seconds by Henry helped set Williams up for the perfect ending to a back-and-forth game.

“That’s not anything scientific on the coach’s part, that’s not a crazy x-and-o, there’s no trickery, no magic wand. That’s your best ball handler making the best decision in the game,” said Coach Major about Henry’s play in the closing seconds.

Williams finished the night with 16 points followed by Henry with 14 points and eight assists. Clayton finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and posted his 16th-consecuctive game scoring in double figures.

The 49ers will hit the road to play at Louisiana Tech on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Photos by Chris Crews and Ben Coon.

49ers women’s basketball bounces back strong in 78-57 win over UNCW

-1The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team improved to 6-7 after an impressive 78-57 performance against the UNC Wilmington Seahawks (1-13) on Friday afternoon in front of a large crowd of local Charlotte elementary school kids for Education Day.

Gabby Tyler got the 49ers off to a solid start after a Ny Hammonds assist followed by sinking two free throws giving Charlotte a quick 4-0 lead. The Seahawks answered right back with four-straight points, but the 49ers wasted no time responding.

“It was great to see our team bounce back after a disappointing loss here a few nights ago,” said Head Coach Cara Consuegra.

“I thought we came out with a lot more energy, a lot more focus in terms of what we’re supposed to be doing. I thought it was just a fabulous team win for us.”

Charlotte went on a 6-0 run midway through the first half which gave the 49ers a comfortable 14-6 advantage.

Hillary Sigmon picked up the first three pointer of the game giving the 49ers a 19-10 lead when she was able to find her shot from just in front of a kid-filled press row. Sigmon finished the day with the only two deep buckets for the 49ers.

The Seahawks rallied back to cut the 49ers lead to seven, but Charlotte responded by answering with a 5-0 run to regain a double digit lead going up 29-17 with 3:52 to play in the first half.

At the half, the 49ers led 38-14 over the Seahawks. Charlotte went 15-30 (50.0 percent) from the field, 2-10 (20.0 percent) from deep and 6-9 (66.7 percent) from the line.

Tori Carter led the 49ers with eight points going into the locker room followed by Sigmon and Lefty Webster each with six points. Charlotte held a 16-8 advantage in shots in the paint and a 20-17 advantage in rebounds.

The 49ers came out of the locker room and quickly found the basket thanks to a Tyler layup. A Hammonds steal followed by a layup gave the 49ers a quick 4-0 start before UNCW could even find their first basket of the second half.

Tyler picked up her sixth double-figure scoring game of the season with just over 14 minutes left when she grabbed her own rebound and was able to sink a layup from the left side of the basket.

“It was good getting the rebounds, because we needed the extra opportunities,” said Tyler.

“We shot the ball really well, but we’ve been talking about rebounds a lot. We’ve been trying to get out there offensively and defensively, and we did that today.”

Coach Consuegra was forced to call two early timeouts in the second half as the Seahawks were finding their way to the basket.

After the second 49ers timeout, Ayanna Holmes made a great steal to assist Sigmon for two points giving the 49ers the momentum they were looking for late in the game.

The Seahawks got into foul trouble midway through the second half forcing the UNCW bench to try and keep the game going for their young team. UNCW’s leading rebounder Ryan Flowers fouled out finishing the game with four points and seven rebounds.

Carter scored her first two points of the second half on two free throws recording her second double figure scoring game of the season and she finished the day with a career-high 16 points.

“I never hold my head down. I always want to bring a spark off the bench. Today was the day. New year, new beginnings,” said Carter.

With just over two minutes to play, Coach Consuegra pulled all her starters allowing the young Charlotte bench to get some experience in a live game situation.

The 49ers closed out the game with a final score of 78-57 shooting 29-63 (46.0 percent) from the field, 2-13 (15.4 percent) from deep and 18-27 (66.7 percent) from the line with 11 different players contributing with points.

“We went into the game with a game plan as coaches to try to use our rotation more, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Coach Consuegra.

The solid shooting from the 49ers helped them post a team-high field goal percentage on the season

The team all walked off the court with smiles beaming from their winning faces as they wrapped up their non-conference campaign. The 49ers open up Conference USA play on Wednesday, Jan. 8 inside Halton Arena against Old Dominion at 7 p.m.

“I think this will help us a lot. Coached talked about pregame and you cant redo our 5-7 record, but what we can do is start today, and be a new team,” said Tyler.

“I think this win today is good for us and we needed it.”

49ers men’s basketball falls 58-55 in buzzer beater to Georgia Tech

The Charlotte 49ers (8-4) fell in a buzzer beater to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-4) 58-55 in a game that seemed uncharacteristic for the mostly young Charlotte team.

It appeared to be an off night for many of the 49ers as each player struggled with executing their shots.

“I think the guys wanted to win the game very badly and at times, that can create a little bit of antsy-ness,” said Head Coach Alan Major.

“Not in a selfish way, but an antsy-ness to want to make a play. I think the guys know how powerful this crowd is once we do get on a run. When you want to win a game really badly, there’s a tendency to get in a bit of a rush.”

Denzel Ingram got off to an impressive start for the 49ers as it seemed every shot he took found it’s way inside the basket. At the half, Ingram was 5-6 from the field and 1-2 from outside the perimeter leading the team with 11 points.

“The ball felt good today, so I just wanted to keep attacking,” said Ingram.

“The shot felt good early on in the shoot-around, so I just wanted to transfer that over to the game.”

Ingram finished the day with a career-high 20 points, four rebounds and two steals.

“I thought Denzel played exactly how we asked him to,” said Coach Major.

“I thought he offensively kind of put his team on his back and played really well.”

Mike Thorne got off to a slow start for Charlotte, but moved Niner Nation to their feet as he was able to come up with a dunk in traffic.

With 10.8 seconds left in the half, Coach Major called a timeout as his team was down by three points and had the ball.

The 49ers went into the locker room trailing 27-24 to the Yellow Jackets. Charlotte was shooting 10-28 (35.7 percent) from the field, 1-5 (20 percent) from deep and 3-6 (50 percent) from the line. Georgia Tech dominated on second chances as they held a 10-0 advantage over the 49ers. Charlotte was out-rebounded 23-15.

Coming out of the locker room, the 49ers got off to a tough start. The Yellow Jackets came out and scored the first five points and after a questionable jumper from Willie Clayton, Coach Major was forced to call a timeout.

“We have to listen to more details in practice. It starts in practice,” said Clayton.

“Every time we get to a close game, it starts in practice. Little things in practice.”

Missed layups and ill-advised jumpers caused quite a problem for the 49ers throughout the night. With less than six minutes to play in the game, Terrence Williams cut Georgia Tech’s lead to three with a beautiful three from just outside the arc.

With 3:51 left on the clock, the 49ers trailed by eight points despite holding a 22-18 advantage in points in the paint.

With 22.7 seconds left, Ingram put up his third and final three of the night to cut Georgia Tech’s lead to just three.

Georgia Tech was able to push their lead out to five before Clayton was fouled and went 2-2 at the line bringing the 49ers back within three points.

After missing his first six opportunities from past the arc, Shawn Lester finally found his spot and tied the game with just 10 seconds left on the clock.

Trae Golden, who finished the night with 24 points for the Yellow Jackets, was able to put up his fourth three of the night with just 3.6 seconds left.

Henry sunk a three at the buzzer and Halton erupted but after it was reviewed, it was ruled that he put the shot up after the buzzer lifting the Yellow Jackets over the 49ers by a final score of 58-55.

“I thought the guys did a great job being disruptive, causing some turnovers. It’s one thing to cause a turnover, but I thought they did a great job converting,” said Coach Major.

“The guys never hung their heads. I think guys are starting to understand that we have to continue to be a team. Tough pill to swallow.”

The 49ers finished the night shooting 20-60 (33.3 percent) from the field, 6-18 (33.3 percent) from deep and 9-14 (64.3 percent) from the line.

The 49ers host North Carolina A&T on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. in Halton Arena before they open up Conference USA play.

49ers women’s basketball falls 76-75 in disappointing loss to Furman

The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team (5-7) fell to the Furman Paladins (7-6) 76-75 in a disappointing loss that came down to the bitter end. Despite Charlotte leading by as much as eight points early in the first half, the Paladins hung on in the final seconds of the close match to secure a win.

“The bigger lesson is that you play like you practice, and you can’t hope on things changing,” said Head Coach Cara Consuegra.

“You have to work and prepare yourself. We struggled the last two days in shooting the ball, and I don’t know why.”

The 49ers were dominating on the boards offensively as they had a 9-2 advantage in rebounds just five minutes into play during the first half.

Hillary Sigmon got the 49ers off to a hot start when she nailed two consecutive long shots. The Paladins answered right back going on a 6-0 run tying the game 12-12 and forcing Coach Consuegra to call a timeout.

“They weren’t doing anything particularly to make us miss shots. We missed shots because it was a lack of focus on our end,” said Sigmon.

Furman pushed their run to 11-0 and took their first lead of the game when Holli Wilkins found herself with a good look at a three pointer. The Paladins would go on a 12-0 run before the 49ers could answer.

Kira Gordon drove to the basket on a layup and was fouled on the way. Her layup and one free throw tied the game 26-26. With three minutes left in the first half, the 49ers trailed 28-26.

At the half, the 49ers trailed the Paladins 36-34 shooting 14-35 (40.0 percent) from the line, 2-3 (66.7 percent) from outside the perimeter and 4-7 (57.1 percent) from the line.

Gordon led Charlotte with 11 points and four rebounds followed by Ny Hammonds with seven points and four rebounds. Gabby Tyler led the 49ers in rebounds with nine.

Furman responded first in the second half going on a 5-0 run before a Tyler jumper. A Hammonds three put the 49ers within two points of the Paladins, but Olivia Rankin picked up a foul sending Furman’s Brittany Hodges to the line to shoot two.

Furman rebounded a missed Sigmon jumper, but Charlotte turned it right back over and sent Hammonds to the line after she was fouled on a layup.

A Sigmon three tied it up 50-50 with just under 14 minutes to play, the first time the game was tied during the second half. Tori Carter was tripped up and sent to the line going 1-2 and giving the 49ers their first lead since coming out of the locker room.

Sigmon hit her fourth three of the night giving the 49ers a 56-53 lead and got Niner Nation on their feet cheering.

Rankin sunk three back-to-back jumpers late in the second half to close the gap for the 49ers. It was Tyler’s two free throws that tied it 64-64.

With less than five minutes to play, Furman was forced to call a timeout after nice defensive work by the 49ers followed by a Hammonds layup gave Charlotte a 70-68 lead.

The final two minutes of the game proved to be crucial for the 49ers as they were head-to-head with Furman. The 49ers trailed by two when Furman was called for a travel giving Charlotte the ball with just 38.8 seconds left on the clock. Hammonds was fouled on a layup and went 1-2 from the line with just 13.4 seconds left.

“Obviously, the free throws, I have to practice everyday. I should have made that last free throw,” said Hammonds.

Charlotte was unable to find the back of the net in the last 10 seconds falling 76-75 in a frustrating loss.

“I thought we just had a lack of urgency throughout the entire game. I’m not sure we locked in and focused the way we needed to because we got beat in one on one situations against what personnel we gave our players,” said Coach Consuegra.

The 49ers host UNC Wilmington on January 3 at noon before the team opens up Conference USA play.

Weekly update from 49ers men’s basketball Head Coach Alan Major

Head Coach Alan Major talking to his team during a timeout in last season’s game against Xavier. Photo by Chris Crews

After a tough 87-78 loss to Davidson in the Battle for the Hornet’s Nest Trophy, the 49ers men’s basketball team picked up a hard-fought win against in-state foe Appalachian State in a 77-59 victory on the road to improve to 7-2.

“Good to bounce back yesterday at App. The guys, I thought, sustained it for the most part,” said Head Coach Alan Major in his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon.

“It was good to get a win on the road. Obviously disappointed to lose at home against Davidson.”

The 49ers will take a nine-day break from games as the team knocks their final exams out of the way. The team will not hold practice on Monday, Dec. 9 or Tuesday, Dec. 10. so that they’re able to focus on exams.

“It’s a chance for bodies to heal. It’ll be almost like a training camp mode when we get back to practice on Wednesday, Thursday.”

The 49ers return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 17 on the road at Florida State.

“Land of the giants. Three-seven footers, I think three more 6-9 guys. Very, very talented team,” said Major about Florida State.

“Obviously on a road environment, we’ll have to be ready to go. They’re very good inside the arc. They will shoot some three’s, but they just have so much size that it makes sense for them to get closer to the basket. Just making sure we have a great feel for personnel, who’s trying to do the damage in terms of scoring, and try to keep those guys away from the rim.”

For Willie Clayton and Mike Thorne, Florida State will be their toughest challenge they’ve faced so far this season.

“I would say so because of the depth,” said Major regarding the challenge ahead for Clayton and Thorne.

“I love those two, but they (Florida State) just have more of them. As you progress forward, these are the challenges that teach you where you’re at.”

Charlotte got a first-hand look at Florida State as the Seminoles also competed in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The 49ers hosted Florida State at the Time Warner Cable Arena last season and fell 79-76.

“They’re still a handful in a lot of ways,” said Major.

Florida State’s Ian Miller is one that Major admits will give the 49ers some difficulty.

“In Puerto Rico, he was fearless. He gives them an offensive swagger. I think his confidence kind of rubs off on his other guards,” said Major about Miller’s play in Puerto Rico.

“When you have a guy like Ian that at any time feels like he can just go and make a play, then the other guys start to feel like, you know what, when you always know you have a guy like that alongside you, it helps your risk-taking ability a little bit more.”

The 49ers are exactly one month away from entering conference play. On Jan. 9, the team travels to open Conference USA play at UTEP. Though the season has gotten off to a solid start for Major’s crew, there are a few areas that he’d like to see improve.

“If I had to narrow it down to maybe just two things, offensively continuing to be more efficient. That may sound a little stingy because we’re shooting 46 percent from the field, which is not a bad number, it’s a solid percentage,” said Major.

“I think we have an ability, as we look at film, to be that 47 and 48 percentage area, which is a very good field goal percentage as a basketball team, for any team. I like the fact that our three-point defense has dipped. Opponents have gone down below 30 percent, which is a good sign. Just continuing to rebound the ball a little bit better, especially the long ones. I think teams are starting to shoot more three’s against us.”

Despite the areas that need to see improvement as the 49ers gear up for conference play, Major has been impressed with the scoring balance of his young team.

“I think yesterday was four guys in double figures, if I’m not mistaking. There has been multiple games where thankfully, it hasn’t been just a one or two game occurrence,” said Major.

“If that trend stays, I think that will help us because you hope that it makes you harder to prepare for. I think we have some other guys that can make some plays, and that scoring balance thing has probably been the biggest surprise that’s been pleasant.”

The 49ers play at Florida State on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. and will look to improve their non-conference record.

49ers men’s basketball team win big with a 77-56 victory over UNC Asheville

No. 3 Shawn Lester
The 49ers were led by Shawn Lester’s 8-0 run in the second half, Lester finished the game with 16-points. Photo by Chris Crews.

The Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team (6-1) made a sloppy, but profound win over the UNC Asheville Bulldogs (1-7) in a 77-56 triumph back at home in their first appearance since winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship.

Coming into the game, the 49ers lone loss of the season came Nov. 12 in their first road game of the season against College of Charleston. The Bulldogs picked up their only win of the season against College of Charleston in their third road match in overtime.

Asheville opened the game with a 4-0 run before Charlotte answered back to tie it at four early on. Terrance Williams found himself on the bench early after getting called for a technical foul.

A well executed pass from Shawn Lester to Williams in the paint for a layup gave the 49ers a 10-point lead over the Bulldogs with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.

The 49ers took a 14-point lead over the Bulldogs for their largest lead of the first half with just over eight minutes left, but went into the locker room only ahead by seven. A buzzer-beating three by Denzel Ingram helped Charlotte wrap up the first half on a high note.

After the first half of play, Charlotte was shooting 13-27 (48.1 percent) from the field, 3-11 (27.3 percent) from outside of the perimeter and 9-16 (56.3 percent) from the line. The 49ers were out-rebounding the Bulldogs 38-31.

Ingram led the 49ers with 11 points at the half, followed by Williams with seven and Marcus Bryan with six. Clayton led the team with seven rebounds followed by Pierria Henry with six.

“The whole first half we were kind of sluggish,” said Lester.

“The shots that we usually take weren’t falling, so we came out in the second half and executed on offense real good. They tried to slow us down taking timeouts, but we still attacked and I think that really helped us.”

The 49ers opened the second half of the game with a solid three by Ben Cherry right in front of the Charlotte bench.

Ingram proved to be crucial in three-point shots for the 49ers as he was 4-5 with just under 12 minutes to play in the game.

On an Ingram assist, Lester gave Niner Nation quite the show on a dunk that put the 49ers up by 15 points with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game.

After only scoring four points in the first half, Lester went on a scoring spree with no sign of slowing down. Two back-to-back three’s followed by a beautiful layup gave Lester an 8-0 run and pulled the Charlotte lead to 19 with 5:25 left on the clock.

“This is only his seventh college basketball game. Very proud of the way he’s tried to blend in and be one of the guys, but also pick his spots and figure out when to be aggressive,” said Major on Lester’s performance.

“He’s learning on the fly like everybody else, but I’m really proud of the contribution he’s made so far.”

For the first time all season, foul trouble did not plague the 49ers. Williams tallied three fouls, the most of any Charlotte player during the game.

No. 15 Pierria Henry
Teammates Willie Clayton and Shawn Lester carry an injured Pierria Henry to the 49ers bench. Photo by Chris Crews.

It was late in the second half when every single person in Halton Arena went silent. Henry went down on a collision with another player and appeared to be in serious pain. It was Clayton and Lester that carried him off the court to the bench while Henry held his left knee.

“He banged his knee against someone, so they’re just making sure if it’s just that, or if something else happened in that collision,” said Head Coach Alan Major on Henry’s knee injury.

“He’s got a doctor appointment tomorrow, so that’s all I’ll say with that right now.”

Despite losing Henry towards the end of the game, the 49ers were able to rally together and pull out a statement win over the Bulldogs. Lester led the 49ers with 16 points and four rebounds, followed by Ingram with 14 points and four rebounds.

Clayton finished the day with his fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

“The performance by Willie Clayton and Mike Thorne just did a fantastic job of controlling the paint,” said Asheville Head Coach Nick McDevitt.

“We’ve played a lot of tough teams, and those two are as tough and as athletic and as good as anybody.”

Thorne finished the day with 12 points and nine rebounds.

The 49ers host Davidson on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. inside Halton Arena.

Photo by Chris Crews.

49ers women’s basketball team fight back to win 63-60 over Winthrop

WBasketball-vs-Winthrop, 11/26, Chris Crews, DSC_4047
Led by Kira Gordon and Hillary Sigmon, four 49ers finished in double-digits. Photo by Chris Crews.

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.

Ny Hammonds had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Photo by Chris Crews.

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.