The Charlotte 49ers (12-11) Head Coach Cara Consuegra had a lot to say after the team’s 62-55 loss to Middle Tennessee (18-5) on Thursday night.
The home team started out strong, pulling ahead to a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, but would fall behind for the rest of the game. Despite holding close to one of the best teams in the conference, Coach Consuegra ended the game feeling less than satisfied about it.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Conseugra. “This is the third game in a row we’ve been in the fourth quarter and had an opportunity to win and we couldn’t make the right plays at the right time. It’s frustrating. No one’s walking out of this game and saying we played the second best team in the league close. We want to win.”
After going into the second quarter with the lead, things began to change quickly. The Blue Raiders would go on a 10-point run to break ahead, causing the Niners to scramble to catch up. Luckily, Junior Guard Jade Phillips would begin to heat up. Her 26 points in the game would lead both teams, as she would go 12-20 from the field. After a 6-0 run by the Niners, the home team found themselves only down by three once again. The teams would go back and forth before heading into halftime 26-29.
“Early, [Jade] got some baskets and that totally changed her confidence,” said Coach Consuegra. “Once that happened, she started knocking those shots down. Jade wants to win. That’s why you see that energy from her, and that’s why you see that chip on her shoulder. She wants to win.”
Going into the second half, the Niners would still be in it. The home team would set the tone as freshman Maddie Moore would block a three-pointer in style, causing the stadium to roar. One play later, guard Laia Raventós would record a steal at half court and convert the fast break, using her body to box out the opposing defender while she made the layup. But the team would fail to take the lead as they would come up short by at least one point multiple times throughout the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Phillips would keep piling it on – this time with a hop-gather jumper from the free throw line to make the home crowd yell in excitement. Yet the team still found themselves down 40-43. The Blue Raiders would respond with a three before Moore would hit a three-pointer of her own with 7:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
With five and a half minutes to go in the game, both teams would get an additional basket to make it 45-48 and then a few more to make it 48-51. The downward spiral that would ensue first began with an argued call.
The 49ers would force a shot clock violation initially after a shot from the Raiders bounced off the backboard, but after lining up to throw the ball in-bounds, a referee would step in and stop the play. After some discussion, and both teams going from the court to the bench multiple times, the referees would elect to review the replay to determine if the ball hit the rim. After review, the ball had graced the rim before touching the backboard. The referees would then reverse the decision, giving the Raiders the chance to inbound the ball to the crowd’s dismay. The away team would then hit it from deep, putting the game almost certainly out of reach. Two minutes, three fouls and three hastily thrown three’s later, Middle Tennessee would win it 62-55. After the game, Coach Consegura had a little to say about the loss.
“This is February. The mistakes we made in November, December and January we have to stop making if we want to finish a game and win. The good thing is we are capable of that. It’s not a matter of effort, it’s not a matter of our want to. I thought we out-played and out-hustled Middle [Tenessee] for most of the game and I’m proud of our kids for that, but at this level you can’t just win by effort… you have to be smarter. Playing hard is a standard. Hustling is a standard. Now we have to play smarter, and until this group plays smarter, we are going to keep feeling like this,” said Consuegra. “We have to decide as a team. If we can do that, great, I like our chances. I like our chances in our last games; I like our chances in the tournament. But until we do that, it’s going to be frustrating.”
The 49ers play next at home on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 4 P.M. at Halton Arena.