Zach Timmons

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Zach Timmons, better known as ZT, is a junior at UNC Charlotte. He is an English major and is also minoring in journalism. In his free time, ZT enjoys writing spoken word poetry, drawing, and making beats.

Back to the lab

Tanisha Wright observes a play from the bench. Photo by Chris Crews

March Madness has just ended.

Villanova won the title on the men’s side, while Notre Dame hit two consecutive buzzer beaters in the Final Four to win the title for the women. At Charlotte, the offseason women’s basketball workouts have started up, and there’s a familiar face in the gym: Tanisha Wright. However, Wright is now on the floor working out, instead of being on the sidelines.

Wright, a member of the 49ers’ coaching staff this past season, is returning to the WNBA after a year off and recently signed with the Minnesota Lynx as a free agent. And, while she didn’t suit up to play this year, it’s clear that she’s still got it.

“I think I stepped away to figure out things, to see what other opportunities that were out there,” Wright said. “I like to stay in shape. I stay in shape and I work on my game as much as I can because I like to grow and get better. I never really stopped doing that. I took some time to get in shape to be able to prepare myself for a training camp. And once I felt like my body was okay and mentally I was okay, it’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it.”

This year, Wright was a part of the coaching staff that oversaw a young Charlotte team. The 49ers had a few growing pains early on, losing multiple games in the non-conference slate by three points or less. However, the team rebounded in the conference portion of the schedule, scoring 10 conference wins before falling in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament to finish 14-16.

Now, as the semester nears its end, Wright will be preparing to join the Lynx, the franchise that won the WNBA Finals last year on the strength of Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore.

“Joining a group that already has championship pedigree, being able to bring that and because it is a veteran group who’s been together for years, they already have a cohesiveness about them… really, it’s about adding on and being a support system to the rest of the people that are there,” Wright said. “Obviously, I wanna perform up to my abilities, but it’s really being a servant leader at this point.”

Wright is no stranger to the spotlight. A stellar collegiate athlete at Penn State, Wright played for the Seattle Storm from 2005 to 2014, and won a ring with the Storm in 2010 alongside Swin Cash, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. She averaged 9.2 points that year, helping the squad bring the title home, and she’ll be looking to reach the pinnacle again this year.

“It does not matter; you can be the best college player at that level, but when you get to the League, you’re gonna find someone who’s bigger, somebody who’s faster, and somebody who’s stronger. So really, it’s just about developing your game, continuing to get better year in and year out. And if you do that, the sky’s the limit,” Wright said.

For Wright, the relationships she has built as each level have been priceless. Head coach Cara Consuegra was a graduate assistant at Penn State when Wright was playing, and the two stayed in contact throughout her career. Wright noted the pointers she’ll take from Charlotte when she reports to Minneapolis.

“The main difference is you see the game completely different. You’re no longer out there performing it. When you’re on the court, you have all the ability in the world to make plays happen,” Wright said when explaining the differences between playing and coaching. “When you’re on the sidelines, you don’t necessarily have those abilities, so you try to impart that on the players that you’re coaching. The perspective of the game is probably the main [thing]… and what I can take to [the League] is the perspective… the understanding everything that leads up to coaches preparing players for a game.”

While she played for Penn State, Wright agreed that C-USA is a sleeper for talent. Redshirt senior Nyilah Jamison-Myers was invited to two pre-draft camps for the WNBA, and Wright says that there are more players in the conference who could make it to the next level.

“You can be a good talent that wasn’t seen—Conference USA, we’re a smaller conference so we’re not seen as much as the Power 5 schools,” Wright said. “You can be a kid who’s not seen as much, but if you’re put in the right situation when you go to the professionals, your game can blossom, you can get better and become somebody who people ‘slept on.’ At the end of the day, we’re all basketball players. It’s what you’re willing to do to grow your game, to get better each and every day and the amount of time you’re willing to put into it.”

Wright will once again have the ability to make plays on the floor for Minnesota.

In 2016, she averaged 6.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 28 starts for the New York Liberty. She’ll undoubtedly look to add to those numbers again. And, while her stay in Charlotte was short, Niner Nation will be sure to cheer on Wright when she suits up this year. Minnesota’s season tips off on May 20 as they will take on the Los Angeles Sparks in the Target Center.

Mean Green Close out Niners

#44 Amaya Ransom rises for a jumper against FAU. Credit: Chris Crews

Despite 18 points from senior Amaya Ransom, the Charlotte 49ers were unable to knock off 11th-seeded North Texas in the first round of the C-USA Tournament, as they fell 58-55 in another close contest. With the loss, Charlotte finished the season with a record of 14-16. The Niners also got help from Laia Raventos, who added 13 points, seven dimes, six boards and four steals. Dara Pearson added eight points and eight boards for a near double-double.

Meanwhile, the Mean Green were paced by Terriell Bradley’s 16 points. Lauren Holmes and Grace Goodheart added 11 and 10 points, respectively. The Mean Green led by as many as 14 during the contest, but they were able to stave off a final Charlotte rally in the fourth quarter.

“Just disappointed with my team. I think this game characterized most of our season in that we played a really good second half and a really poor first half,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “You can’t play 20 minutes and think you’re going to beat teams in this league. They’re too good.”

The first quarter was a back and forth affair, with the Niners going up 4-2 before a 6-0 Mean Green run put NT in front. Raventos recorded a pilfer on the defensive end before both teams traded three-pointers, and North Texas went up 14-12 after a low scoring first quarter.

In the second, the Mean Green blew the game open. Charlotte started things off well enough with a 5-0 run, but NT countered with runs of 9-2 and 6-0, and Charlotte found themselves down 10 points, 29-19. The return of Nyilah Jamison-Myers, who had been out with an ankle injury, helped Charlotte to a 6-0 run, but NT ended the half with another 7-0 run as they went into the half up 36-25. The Mean Green outscored the 49ers 22-13.

North Texas got its largest lead of the game early in the second half, as another run stretched the lead to 14. Charlotte was able to fight back, on the strength of Jamison-Myers and Ransom. Raventos also wreaked havoc on the defensive end, and before long, the Niners had narrowed the deficit to six, 48-42, going into the final quarter.

Raventos and Ransom cranked up the energy in the fourth, as they narrowed the deficit to two points. However, the last two minutes of the game were full of fireworks as each time tried to outduel the other. Raventos’ buckets brought Charlotte within three, 53-50, but a defensive lapse resulted in another NT treyball. Pearson and Ransom continued to contribute, with Ransom’s final threeball dropping with just over 10 seconds left to bring them within two, 57-55. NT split consecutive trips to the line, giving Charlotte a chance. The Niners got two looks from downtown in the last 10 seconds, but neither dropped, and Charlotte ran out of time to foul.

“To my team’s credit, they regrouped at halftime and we played how we expected to play defensively in holding them to 30 percent shooting in the second half,” Consuegra said. “It’s just a shame we couldn’t put that effort together for two halves. I’m proud of Amaya, being a senior… I mean, she really finished her season strong. And I thought her energy kept us going in this game when we had to go through some hard times.”

With the loss, Charlotte closes the season at 14-16, with a 10-6 record in Conference USA. The team will look to build on its youthful roster and come back stronger than ever next year.

 

Jada Martin: Dripping in finesse

Jada Martin poses with her family and Coach Consuegra on Senior Day. Credit: Chris Crews

The elevator in the Student Union opens, and Jada Martin emerges, flanked by some of her teammates. It’s Thursday night, and the women’s team has just scored a big home win over rival Old Dominion, holding the Monarchs to a season low 43 points.

But, instead of adorning the usual green and white uniform, Number 10 steps out wearing a bandana, sleek black tee, complemented with a light beige jacket, jeans and a pair of classic Timberlands. The butters! Straight from the ’90s. Smooth like her game, dripping in finesse. Simply put, it’s a tough fit.

Tough. Fit.

Incidentally, those two words describe Martin’s role on Charlotte’s team perfectly. In being one of the three senior leaders on this roster, Martin has proven herself to be tough and reliable, while also fitting in and taking on the role of a defensive stopper. She has weaved herself into the fabric of this young roster, providing crucial minutes when called upon and also scoring timely baskets.

So, how exactly did she get here?

The Come Up

Martin stands on the home baseline in Halton Arena near the bench. She stands underneath the banners and jerseys of former Niner greats in the rafters. There are 10 days remaining until Senior Day, when she and classmates Nyilah Jamison-Myers and Amaya Ransom will be honored after their last home game against Florida Atlantic.

She pauses, savoring the moments before an afternoon weight lift. How again did she get here?

Just two seasons ago, Martin was playing ball at Spartanburg Methodist, where she averaged 9.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 dimes per contest as a sophomore. During that year, she had five double-doubles and started in every single contest. She then transferred to Charlotte, where she became the very first walk-on under coach Cara Consuegra. Prior to that year, Consuegra had never held walk-on tryouts.

Martin continued to impress on and off the floor, and that spring, she earned a scholarship. Fast forward through the grueling summer and fall preseason camps, and Martin found herself on the floor quite often. Whether defending on the perimeter or hitting threes or securing offensive boards, Martin is always in the right place at the right time. She quotes Joel Embiid when asked about her journey: “trust the process.”

“It’s definitely a tough process, and it can definitely get frustrating at times,” Martin said. “But as long as you keep confidence, believe in yourself and work hard, everything does pay off in the long run.”

Martin’s come up is remarkable, and she notes the various differences between junior college and Division I college ball.

“The biggest difference is definitely the speed and all the work that’s required, that needs to be put in and the time that you’re spending in the gym. Not exactly on your own, but that’s mandatory. And definitely the weightlifting. But mainly the speed, the demands and the speed of the game at the next level,” Martin said.

She looks off to the side to the coolers of water and Powerade. Her practice jersey hangs from her hands as she considers her next thought.

“My advice to people that are trying to go DI and transfer over? I would say just work hard,” Martin said. “Like, you’ve got to work hard and have that mentality that, regardless of what’s going on around me, I’m gonna do better. If I wanna do better, I gotta put in the work and it’s all gonna pay off.”

It’s clear that work ethic has gotten Martin to where she is today. There’s no shortcuts, no ifs, ands or buts, no ways around it. For many athletes, their work ethic falls well short of their talent. That’s not true at all for Martin. After playing in 10 games last year as a junior and scoring her first points against UTSA, Martin has been on the court more consistently for the 49ers this year. Oftentimes, she is put in toward the ends of quarters or halves, specifically when the other team has possession and the Niners need a stop.

Martin is the head of the snake in the 49ers zone defense, and she is also a lockdown individual defender when given the opportunity. But don’t get it twisted. Martin is more than just a defender. Against South Carolina State this year, she hit a big three in transition before also securing an offensive rebound and putback a few possessions later to give Charlotte momentum. She also had scoring performances against Coppin State, FIU, and Western Kentucky.

“It’s kinda different because I’m in a position where I don’t play as much because I transferred in. But at the same time, I’m expected to be a leader, just because that’s how I am,” Martin said.

“I’ve always been a leader. It’s kinda tough, but at the end of the day, it’s about the team and the leadership that the freshmen need coming in. It’s big. It prepares the program for years to come. So, I still do my best to lead the freshmen, trying to lead as best I can on and off the court.”

Know Your Role

Martin, or J-Mart, as she is called by her teammates and friends, has always been one to play her role. Though it’s just a nickname, J-Mart could easily be an acronym: “Just Mounting At the Right Time.” Consuegra noted J-Mart’s emergence in the February 26 episode of Gold Mine Live.

“The kid just completely won me over,” Consuegra said. “Not just because of basketball, but just her spirit, her enthusiasm. She’s a hard worker, she’s willing to do anything that I ask her to do for the team… Quite frankly, she’s earned herself an opportunity to play.”

Consuegra continued to note the importance of Martin’s play, even though not everything she does pops up in the box score.

“She pushes our kids. Defensively, she’s super solid for us. I know when we really need a stop, I’m subbing J-Mart in. She’s just made us better in so many different ways and I’m really thankful that I had those walk-on tryouts that day.”

Gold Mine Live host Matt Sweirad called J-Mart Charlotte’s “own version of Rudy”, referencing the famed 1970’s Notre Dame football player whose life was documented in a movie and has since become a sports classic.

While the sport is different, J-Mart has continued to prove her worth to the squad, and her efforts have undoubtedly help spear the Niners toward the conference tournament.

Last Ride

“Starting at guard… a five-foot-eight senior from Winnsboro, South Carolina… Number 10… Jadaaaaaaaaaa Maaaaarttiiiiinnnnnn!”

The crowd goes wild as Martin emerges from the smoke-filled tunnel. It’s something that all athletes dream of: their name being yelled over the loudspeaker as the music booms and the arena goes dark. Tonight, another dream comes true.

On Senior Night, J-Mart earns her first career start against Florida Atlantic, and she doesn’t disappoint. With braids and a headband, balling out like a young Allen Iverson, Martin hits a smooth reverse layup on the baseline in addition to a rebound and an assist. The Niners lead wire-to-wire and send Martin, Ransom and Jamison-Myers out on a high note with an 83-69 win.

“I think everyone as a whole has become more focused,” Martin said. “The leaders we do have on this team, I think we have become more focused on holding everyone else accountable. It shows in practice, it transfers over in practice. We’ve been having consistently good practices, and it definitely transfers over in the game.”

“She’s one that’s always ready. Whenever we put her in– and obviously she got a great opportunity tonight, and she made the most of it– she was ready,” Consuegra said after the FAU game. “She’s a kid that cares about her teammates, and she cares about doing things well at a high level. That’s just a contagious energy that comes from her and she brings it every single day, and it’s made our team a lot better.”

Martin, with flowers in hand, prepares to walk off the court at Halton Arena for the final time as a player. She knows that the team’s mission isn’t finished yet, but for the moment, she can relax and enjoy this time of serenity. Her sneakers squeaking on the hardwood, Martin exits, with her jersey drenched in hard work. It’s not just sweat though.

Jada Martin is dripping in finesse.

 

Want Some Mo?

Mariah Linney looks to pass the rock against Rutgers. Credit: Chris Crews

Mariah Linney emerges from the locker room, swagged out per usual. Her hair is tied in a high bun, secured by a white headband. Her green Nikes still untied, Linney extends her right arm out for a fist bump before walking down the hallway toward the entrance of Halton Arena.

It’s Thursday, and the 49ers are fresh off a weekend that featured back to back home wins. Linney tallied seven points, seven boards and four dimes against the Marshall Thundering Herd, and followed that up with 12 points and five boards against the FIU Panthers two days later.

If Linney keeps hooping like this, she may need to swap out her headband for a chef’s hat, because it’s clear that she’s been working with the sauce.

Any outside observer would be able to note Mariah’s demeanor. Her swagger on the court matches her persona off of it: quiet and observant (until she feels comfortable and gets in her zone) with a bit of flashiness mixed in.

“I get it from my dad, to be honest,” Linney says, laughing as her teammates warm up in the background.

True enough, Linney’s confidence and demeanor have been a big source of positivity for the 49ers.

Linney’s development can’t be overlooked. After her 12-point outing versus the Panthers (then a season-high), Linney outdid herself days later, notching a career-high 16 points against UTSA in the annual Play4Kay Game.

Linney had her finest all-around performance of the season against the Roadrunners, as she scored her 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting off the bench. She went 4-6 from the charity stripe and also added three assists, three boards, three steals and two blocks. She did it all while wearing her trademarked headband, bright pink Nikes for breast cancer awareness, and the Niners’ sleek black sleeved uniforms.

But those game uniforms aren’t the only thing that caught people’s attention. Linney’s personal shoe and jersey collections are in their infancies, but every hooper knows that shoes and jerseys are a major ingredient to the sauce.

“I want to start my jersey collection. I only have two right now, but I like shoes a lot. I’m trying to expand my variety of shoes,” Linney says. “I post [pictures of] them on social media, they get likes. I do it for the fun of it.”

In this age of social media and instant replay, Linney has proven to be a capable highlight reel. For awhile, her pinned tweet on twitter was a clip of her crossing up a defender before draining a three-pointer in her face, with the caption “Don’t reach.” At Charlotte, Linney can often be found getting steals and forcing the issue on the fastbreak, often looking ahead for teammates with flashy passes.

“I haven’t been the big star that I was in high school, but hopefully that will come about sooner or later… you gotta start somewhere,” Linney says. “I feel like I’m finally getting my rhythm and hopefully I will become how I was in high school when I was recruited by Coach Cara.”

Head coach Cara Consuegra has been vocal about Linney’s development as the season has gone along, noting her improvement during February 12th’s episode of Gold Mine Live.

“Every game, she’s just getting better,” Consuegra said after the UTSA game. “Mo and I had a conversation… and I said, ‘Look, I want to play you more. I think you’re ready.’ I feel like ever since that conversation, she has been exactly what we’ve needed her to be. I’m happy for her and really proud of her.”

Consuegra also noted that the emergence of Linney has resulted in teams defending the backcourt differently as the conference slate has moved along.

“Mo’s development has really helped because now I can have two ballhandlers on the court,” Consuegra said. “Earlier in the year, everybody knew about Laia and how great she was, and we needed Laia to do everything. Late game, everybody knew she was gonna get the touch… teams were coming out and face-denying Laia because they knew she ran everything for us. Now, with Mo playing so much better, it’s taken a lot of pressure off of Laia. And because of that, she’s not turning the ball over as much because she doesn’t have to make every pressure decision.”

Back at the arena, Linney notes her own development as the days go by.

“I have become more comfortable and became more observant of what’s going on. I learned to play the pace,” she says. “I’ve been focusing more on my defense since I’ve gotten here, and I feel like my defense has given me the energy to do other things. So, giving me confidence to do something like that (going out and scoring 12 points). My assists, steals, and most of all, turnovers. I’ve cut those down a lot from the beginning of the season, and that means a lot.”

In basketball, point guards have to be quick decision makers. They must know all the plays, make the right reads, and they have to be ready for action at all times. When asked who her favorite player is and who she models her game after, Mo responds with no hesitation.

“My favorite all time player is Jason Williams, aka White Chocolate, but my role model is my dad,” she says. “The type of player he is… he doesn’t talk on the court, but lets his game talk for him, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. ”

With crossovers and behind-the-back moves galore, it’s easy to see how Williams’ game influences Linney’s. If she continues to add more ingredients to the sauce, there’s no telling how far this Charlotte team can go.

Given her all-around abilities, Linney likely could become a positionless threat (a la Lefty Webster): someone with the ability to score at will, pass and rebound at a high rate, and be a pest on defense.

As Linney ties her shoes and heads over to her teammates, the music in the gym is turned up a little louder, and the team prepares to stretch.

She and backcourt classmate Octavia Wilson are the future, but there is no time like the present. Only time will tell what else Linney and the 49ers can cook up for the rest of this season.

Charlotte halts the Herd

Amaya Ransom had 16 points and seven boards to lead four players in double-figure scoring, and the Charlotte 49ers scored their fourth conference victory with a 67-61 decision over the Marshall Thundering Herd on Friday night. The 49ers got a huge game from Laia Raventos, who tallied 13 points and nine assists for a near double-double. Octavia Wilson recorded 12 points, and Nyilah Jamison-Myers added 11 points and seven rebounds for Charlotte.

Marshall was led by Shayna Gore’s 32 points and Talequia Hamilton’s 22 points and eight rebounds. The two combined for 54 of the team’s 61 points, and nobody else stepped up or scored in double figures. Gore hit eight of her 14 three-point attempts, and the Herd had 11 threes in the game (11-25, 44 percent) to outscore Charlotte 33 to 18 on the perimeter. However, Marshall managed only two free throws the entire game, compared to 23 free throws for the Niners. Charlotte only fouled nine times during the contest.

“The third quarter, I think, was the story of this game for us. I wasn’t pleased with our start to this game and I wasn’t pleased with us defensively at all with the first half,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “I think we regrouped at halftime and came out very, very focused and the difference in this game was the third quarter to hold them to eight points and being able to maintain and take the lead in the fourth quarter.”

After the opening tip, Jamison-Myers gave Charlotte its first bucket and lead, but Marshall responded with three consecutive threes. Gore recorded 10 of the team’s first 13 points, as she began the game red-hot from behind the arc. Charlotte soonafter went on a 6-0 run, but Marshall went on a run of their own, finishing the quarter shooting 8-15 (53 percent) and went into the second leading 19-14.

In the second period, Marshall continued their torrid shooting from deep, connecting on four of their nine three-point tries. At the media timeout halfway through the period, the Herd were up 30-23. However, Ransom caught fire for Charlotte, hitting two threes to keep Charlotte close and helping the Niners go on a 8-0 run. Hamilton and  and Gore each had 16 points at the half for the Herd, helping them to a narrow 35-34 halftime advantage.

In the third quarter, the Niners came alive, holding the hot-shooting Herd to only eight points. Marshall missed all its three-point tries and only shot 4-13 in the period. Meanwhile, the play of freshmen Wilson and Mariah Linney (7 points, 7 rebounds, four assists) kept Charlotte in the game and ultimately gave them the lead. Another three from Ransom gave Charlotte the lead, and they went up 48-43 entering the final quarter.

Ransom and Wilson continued to be assertive on the offensive end, as their buckets gave Charlotte a 10-point lead. Marshall was not to be denied, however, as two consecutive trey balls sliced the gap to four points. Marshall stayed within striking distance, as the lead remained four points for the majority of the quarter. However, multiple turnovers and missed threes proved to be the difference maker. Charlotte successfully won the foul game as the Herd tried to extend the contest, knocking down eight free throws to put the game away, 67-61.

“I thought this was overall a huge team win for us. We feel like any time we get multiple players in double figures scoring then we have a chance to win,” Consuegra said. “”I’m super proud of Mariah. … She is getting better every single week and again that’s a credit to her because of her work in practice. She’s changed her mentality in practice. She has practiced it, she’s getting better, she’s understanding the system, understanding what we need from her and she’s just continuing to grow. I’m really excited about it.”

With the win, Charlotte improved to 8-13 on the year, and 4-4 in Conference play. Their homestand isn’t complete, as they will face the FIU Panthers on Super Bowl Sunday at 1pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

Niners unable to finish off comeback

Laia Raventos dribbles around a defender. Photo by Chris Crews

Nyilah Jamison-Myers looked like her old self on the way to recording 17 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, but the Charlotte 49ers were unable to defeat the visiting Rice Owls, losing 62-55. Jamison-Myers was flanked in double-figures by Laia Raventos’ 16 points, five dimes and three steals, and Octavia Wilson’s 10 points. However, the Niners missed all 11 of their three-point attempts and couldn’t stay afloat in the first half.

Wendy Knight paced the Owls with 16 points and four rebounds to go with her three three-pointers. Her last shot from behind the arc came late in the shot clock with less than 90 seconds remaining that gave Rice a 10-point cushion. Erica Ogwumike, who came in the game as their leading scorer, finished with 14 points on 6-10 shooting and seven boards, and Nicole Iademarco finished with 10 points.

“Obviously, it was a story of two halves when I think of this game. I’m really proud of just our resiliency in the second half. I challenged the kids at halftime to just come out and play harder,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “Quite honestly, if there was three more minutes in this game, we could have won the game. We have to be better for 40 minutes. That has kind of been the theme of this team for much of the season.”

The Niners, who were starting Lauren Harley for the first time ever, fell behind early due to Rice’s hot shooting. The Owls hit nine of their 12 field goals in the first quarter on the way to 22 points. While both teams relatively even during the first part of the period, the Owls went on a 7-0 run halfway through before Charlotte was able to respond. The Niners used a three-quarter court press to force a few steals, but Knight knocked in a treyball at the first quarter buzzer to give them the 22-13 lead going into the second frame.

The second quarter proved to be fatal for the Niners, as they never really got the ball rolling. The Owls shot worse (3-14) than Charlotte did (4-10) in the quarter, but the Niners kept turning the ball over. Meanwhile, the Owls drew a number of fouls and went 8-9 from the line. One key play came at the end of the half, when Raventos tried to make a spin move to the basket but Rice’s Taylor Bennett drew a charge and hit free throws in the bonus. Those free throws allowed Rice to outscore the 49ers 15-8 in the period and gave them a commanding 37-21 halftime lead.

After halftime, Charlotte found new life, as they went on an 8-2 run on the strength of three straight steals. Jamison-Myers asserted herself, as Rice had no answer for her down low. Raventos also scored some timely buckets. The Niners’ 2-3 zone stifled the Owls, only surrendering seven points in the frame. The 49ers went into the fourth quarter down 44-35 as they continued their comeback.

Raventos and Jamison-Myers continued to lead the charge back, and it was Wilson who finally cut the deficit to four points after a floater in the lane. Charlotte’s defense continued to carry them, as they forced a lot of contested midrange shots late in the clock and also forced two shot clock violations. However, Rice began to respond with timely baskets when they were really needed. Knight’s last three-pointer gave the Owls some breathing room, and Charlotte was forced to play catchup. Jamison-Myers and Raventos both knocked in crucial free throws, but the Niners didn’t get into the bonus until the final minute, and they ran out of time. The Owls walked away with the 62-55 win, improving to 14-3 on the year and 4-1 in Conference USA.

“We can put together great spurts where we look really good but we lose that team for a couple of minutes,” Consuegra said. “That consistency– we just haven’t grasped yet. We just have to keep working, and we’re going to keep working. We have to continue to find that team that can put together 40 minutes in a game.”

The Niners, who are now 6-12 on the year and 2-3 in conference play, will look to even out their record as they’ll head to Southern Mississippi on Thursday. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and is the first of a two-game road trip.

 

Niners shut down South Carolina State

Jaida Robinson shields the ball from a Duquesne defender. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers returned home on Thursday night, and the team finally ended their losing streak. The Niners used a balanced scoring effort and turned in a 64-49 victory over the South Carolina State Bulldogs to bring their record to 4-8 with one more game before conference play. Jaida Robinson notched 11 points and 13 rebounds, Dara Pearson tallied 10 points and 11 boards, and Nyilah Jamison-Myers added 11 points for Charlotte.

South Carolina State had three players in double figures, but shot a dismal 21 percent from the floor. Kyesha Lewis and Esther Udonsi both had 15 points for the Bulldogs, but combined to shoot 9-27 from the field. Bryeasha Blair added 12 points on 3-16 shooting. The Bulldogs’ bench only managed to shoot 1-11. For the game, the Bulldogs shot 15-71 (21.1 percent), which was the lowest percentage any Charlotte opponent has shot.

“I’m really proud of some of our role players in this game,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “I think Dara had a great game with the double-double. I thought she was a difference maker in terms of rebounding. She started to box out and when she does that, everybody else does. I thought Jaida Robinson off the bench was tremendous. We had to find a way to keep her out of foul trouble but a double-double in 18 minutes is outstanding.”

The Bulldogs took an early 4-2 lead in the first quarter, but the Niners found a lead they would never relenquish around the eight minute mark after Laia Raventos’ three-point basket. Raventos’ bucket was the start of a 7-0 run, and they would continue to push the lead, despite going back and forth during the opening minutes. The Niners shot 10-20 in the quarter, getting up a lot of shots and multiple players involved on the way to a 21-15 lead. The Bulldogs only hit 4 of their 19 field goals in the opening frame.

The Bulldogs narrowed the deficit to four in the second quarter, but a subsequent drought by both teams led to no points, spanning almost half of the quarter. By the time the Niners did score again, they pushed the lead to 29-20, but the Bulldogs finished the half on another 7-0 run. Charlotte only managed eight points during the frame and shot 3-12 from the floor, but still led 29-27 at the half.

Charlotte had a huge third quarter, as they outscored South Carolina State 24-15. The Niners started the half off with an 8-0 run to maintain a 10-point lead. The Bulldogs narrowed the deficit to six, but another 9-0 Charlotte run gave the Niners the momentum they needed to hold SCSU off. The Niners went into the fourth quarter ahead 53-42.

In the fourth, the Niners didn’t find much scoring, as they only managed 11 points. However, the Bulldogs only dropped seven points in the quarter on 3-18 shooting. It was the fewest points Charlotte had ever surrendered in the fourth quarter. While both teams struggled to shoot the ball, a 7-0 run by the 49ers proved to be the difference. The Niners added a couple of buckets at the end, and won 64-49.

“I liked how this fell on the schedule. I think it’s really good for us,” Consuegra said. “It’s going to continue to help prepare us because our mission as a team right now is to just keep getting better. We need to get better and anytime we can put ourselves in a situation that helps us get better, helps prepare us, helps us get ready, that’s what we need to do.”

The Niners will face off against Mercer in their final non conference game on Saturday, Dec. 30 at 4 p.m.

 

Niners narrowly lose to Davidson

Amaya Ransom shoots a jumper. Credit: Chris Crews

Amaya Ransom scored 14 points and seven rebounds, Laia Raventos registered 13 points and six boards, but the Charlotte 49ers came up short and dropped a 68-66 decision to the Davidson Wildcats. Octavia Wilson added 12 points for the Niners to go with four steals, and Raventos also tallied four steals. Freshman Mariah Linney added nine points and five dimes, Jaida Robinson had eight points and five boards, and Dara Pearson had 10 rebounds for Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Davidson was led by Mackenzie Latt’s 23 points and 12 rebounds. Justine Lyon added 19 points and seven dimes on a poor shooting night (6-18 FG, 1-9 3FG) and Katie Turner registered 17 points and five dimes with five three-pointers. The Wildcats won the game, despite being outrebounded 39-38 and outshot from the field. Charlotte shot 39 percent from the floor, while Davidson managed to shoot 36 percent.

The Wildcats started quickly out of the gates, as they went on a 6-0 run to open things up. Charlotte countered with a 10-4 spurt, as Raventos’ defense and Linney’s shooting got them back into it. Charlotte kept going to the foul line and made the most of their opportunities, while Davidson kept knocking in shots from long range. Charlotte, which shot 23-31 (74 percent) from the line for the game, went into the second quarter leading 21-20.

The second quarter featured more back-and-forth action. After a Charlotte bucket, the Wildcats countered with another 8-0 run that was bookended by another threeball from Turner. Wilson scored a bulk of her points in the quarter, as the freshman phenom kept getting to the line. Davidson’s wings couldn’t stay in front of her. Wilson’s points were the last of the quarter for Charlotte, and the 49ers went into the locker room up 36-35.

After another lead change, Charlotte went on another 6-0 run, sparked by Pearson and Linney. Davidson continued to play back evenly, as Latt started to take over down low. The Wildcats shot 4-14 (28.6 percent) from the floor but hit 5-6 from the line, and they were able to score 13 points in the quarter compared to Charlotte’s 16. The 49ers went into the final frame up ahead 52-48.

Davidson came out of the gates of the fourth with a 9-0 run that gave them a 57-52 lead. The Niners eventually tied the score, but a scoring lull ensued. Trailing 65-64, Ransom’s layup temporarily gave them the lead, 66-65 with less than 90 seconds remaining. However, Turner hit her last back-breaking triple with 37 seconds remaining to go up 68-66. Charlotte fouled Davidson, and they missed both free throws, and a jumpball gave Charlotte the ball back with less than five ticks remaining in the game. The Niners got a good look at the horn, but the shot didn’t fall.

Charlotte, now 3-8, will look ahead to Dec. 28, when they will play host to South Carolina State. The game will tip off at 7 p.m.

49ers fall on the road, 71-69

Laia Raventos looks to drive against Duquesne. Photo by Chris Crews

Laia Raventos dropped 20 points, 10 dimes and six boards, Octavia Wilson added 12 points, but the Charlotte 49ers lost a heartbreaking 71-69 contest to Wake Forest. Mariah Linney and Amaya Ransom both added nine points, and Jaida Robinson grabbed 12 rebounds for the visiting 49ers.

Elisa Penna dropped 24 points on 8-19 shooting for the Demon Deacons, and she was flanked by Tyra Whitehead’s 15 points and Alex Sharp’s 10 points. Both Whitehead and Sharp had eight boards apiece for Wake Forest. Meanwhile, Ariel Stephenson only scored eight points on 3-of-9 shooting (1-5 from downtown), but she made the most crucial basket. Stephenson’s drive on a fastbreak gave Wake Forest the go-ahead, game winning basket with 2.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

“I felt like we lost the game at the end of the second quarter, not even the final minute of the fourth quarter,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “It’s easy to pinpoint the last minute. We didn’t execute as well as I would have liked. …We have to learn to have a killer’s mentality.”

Charlotte came out blazing, as they put up 20 points to match the Demon Deacons in the first quarter. The Niners shot 9-13 (69.2 percent) in the frame, compared to Wake Forest’s 7-17 (41.2 percent) shooting. The quarter featured eight ties and five lead changes, as Raventos hit all of her field goals to give Charlotte some momentum.

The hot shooting stopped for both teams in the second quarter, as the Niners scored 13 points to Wake Forest’s 11. Charlotte connected on 42 percent of their field goals, while the Demon Deacons managed to shoot 31 percent. Charlotte began the quarter strong, but Raventos’ second personal foul forced her to the bench, and Wake Forest responded with a 6-0 run to close the half. Charlotte led 33-31 at intermission, but the Demon Deacons had all the momentum.

Wake started the second half on a 5-0 mini-run before the Niners recovered. After Linney knocked down a treyball, the two teams continued the see-saw affair. Charlotte managed to hit five of their 12 field goals during the period, but the Deacs outshot them percentage wise, and they also made four of six free throw attempts. The Niners, who only went 3-9 (33 percent) from the stripe for the game, went 1-2 in the quarter. The Deacs outscored Charlotte 16-12 in the third, and they led the Niners 47-45 going into the final quarter.

Neither team could gain an advantage in the fourth, as both teams continued to hit from the floor. Finally, Charlotte went on an 8-0 run to go up 59-53 at the halfway mark. Wake countered with an 8-2 run, capped by free throws to tie the score again. In the final minute, Penna scored her last basket on an and-one play, bringing Wake Forest within one, 67-66. Ransom scored her final points, but Charlotte then missed two free throws in a row, and Wake Forest split their free throws, tying the game at 69.

With time running out, Raventos had a good look at a game winner with less than 10 ticks remaining, but she missed the shot. The Deacs got the rebound and the run out, and Stephenson’s layup in transition with 2.8 seconds left gave them the lead. Charlotte got off a long shot attempt at the buzzer, but it didn’t fall, and Wake escaped with the home victory.

“It’s tough, because this is the fourth or fifth game of this [losing a close game in the final minute],” Consuegra said. “It’s frustrating, to be 100 percent honest. My team’s competing, and that’s a good thing, and we’re there. But I’m sick of losing, man. There’s nothing else I can say.”

With the win, Wake improved to 7-5 on the year, while Charlotte moved to 3-7. The 49ers will look to close out the road swing with a game on Thursday at rival Davidson. The game against the Wildcats will be played at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

Hogs Hold Off 49ers, 73-72

Amaya Ransom drives the ball up the floor. Credit: Chimena Ihebuzor

Laia Raventos notched 17 points, six steals and six dimes, Jaida Robinson added 15 points and six boards off the bench, but the Charlotte 49ers suffered a one-point defeat to the Arkansas Razorbacks on the road.

Amaya Ransom added 14 points, and Dara Pearson had a career-high 19 rebounds to go with her six points for Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Devin Cosper had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead Arkansas, while Malica Monk added 15 points and Jailyn Mason had 12. The Razorbacks shot 26-75 (34.7 percent), while Charlotte shot 27-74 (36.5 percent). The Niners also won the rebounding battle 58-45.

“For us, obviously, a disappointing game. I felt like we did enough to put ourselves in position to win the game, and it was little plays down the stretch that they were tougher than us,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “We’re a really young team. This is the fourth game that we’ve been in the game and we couldn’t finish… We’re just not ready to win yet. We don’t know how to make those plays.”

Neither team got off to a particularly hot start, as the Niners managed only four points while the Razorbacks were scoreless through the midway point of the quarter. Arkansas responded with a 6-0 run that gave them their first lead of the game, and the teams battled back and forth. The Niners, who shot 8 for 21 in the first period, ended the quarter with a 6-0 run of their own, capped by Ransom’s first three-ball of the day.

The Niners came out of the gates in the second quarter, as they went on an 8-2 run to keep the Hogs at bay. This time, Charlotte converted eight of their 16 field goals, and they went on another 7-2 run at the end of the period, thanks to Raventos’ efforts. Charlotte went into the half up ahead 37-30.

In the third quarter, the Niners went cold. Charlotte shot 3-17 (17.6 percent) in the frame, but was able to make up for it at the free throw line. Charlotte shot 6-10 from the line, accounting for half of their points, but Arkansas started the period with an 8-0 run and ended with another 9-0 run. Raventos continued to lead the 49ers, as Nyilah Jamison-Myers (eight points) was saddled by foul trouble. Charlotte was able to tie the score at 49 heading into the fourth quarter.

Once again, neither team made much of a dent in the scoreboard at first, but the Hogs soon rattled off another 7-0 run to give them the lead midway through the period, 59-54. The Niners continued to fight, but Arkansas went on a game-changing 7-0 run with less than two minutes remaining to go-ahead 70-64. Ransom made a layup and Raventos hit her three-pointer with four ticks remaining in the game after a foul. However, the Razorbacks won the foul game. Mason’s final two points came at the line to push the lead to 73-69, and Ransom’s final three-ball dropped to provide the last points.

“Obviously, number 21 (Cosper) had a great game. Most of the second half, our huddles were all about trying to be able  to contain her better… We did not do a good job of that in the second half,” Consuegra said. “We’ll just continue to improve. But it was a great battle tonight between two teams that are just gonna continue to get better.”

Charlotte won’t play again until December 18, when they will take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at 11 a.m. The game will be the second of three straight road games after  the student-athletes will have a break for their exams.

49ers Fly Past Eagles, 78-49

Laia Raventos attempts a free throw. Credit: Chimena Ihebuzor

Nyilah Jamison-Myers notched 18 points and seven boards in only 19 minutes, Amaya Ransom added 12, and the Charlotte 49ers never trailed as they routed the Coppin State Eagles 78-49 in their first home game since mid-November.

Junior guard Laia Raventos flirted with a near triple-double, as she matched a career-high with 11 assists to go with her seven points and seven rebounds. She also only had two turnovers compared to 10 at East Carolina and had four steals. Dara Pearson had a near double-double, as she contributed nine points and eight boards, and freshman Mariah Linney added nine points off the pine.

Meanwhile, the Eagles could never really get going offensively. Oluwadamilol Oloyede led the way with 17 points, and Chance Graham added nine points and nine boards for a near double-double. She also added five steals. Charlotte made the night tough for Coppin State leading scorer Genesis Lucas. Lucas, who came into the game averaging 19.7 points and 4.6 assists, finished 2-14 from the field (14.2 percent) for six points, five dimes and five turnovers.

“I was really pleased with our defense on their best player, number 2,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “Holding her to six points is certainly improvement in understanding playing personnel better. … We talked about how we wanted to win the transition game in this game, and I thought we obviously did that.”

The 49ers won the battle in fast break points 16-5 and also had better bench production. The Charlotte bench outscored the Eagles’ 26-21, bouyed by Linney’s performance, as well as Lauren Harley’s (seven points) and Jaida Robinson’s (six points, eight rebounds). Senior Jada Martin also tallied a career high four points and two boards for the Niners.

Charlotte raced out to a 19-7 lead after the first quarter. During the frame, the Niners found offense in Jamison-Myers and Linney. After starting the game out on an 8-0 run, Linney scored seven points during the period, including a treyball that gave the Niners a 10-point lead, 15-5. Raventos tallied five dimes as the team racked up four steals, and converted all of them into eight fastbreak points. Meanwhile, the Eagles shot a dismal 3-15 from the floor while the 49ers converted 7-14 field goal attempts.

The second quarter belonged to Jamison-Myers. The forward poured in nine points and had two blocks during the quarter, sparking the 49ers. Raventos handed out three more assists to bring her total to eight before the half, and freshman Octavia Wilson dished out three of her six assists during the frame as well. The Eagles looked to build some momentum after going on a 7-0 run to bring the deficit to 22-14, but the Niners responded with a game changing 13-0 spurt that ended with Jamison-Myers’ ninth point coming at the halftime buzzer. Lucas went cold during the quarter, as she shot 0-6 from the floor, and the Eagles trailed 37-16 at the half.

The third quarter featured a lot of back and forth buckets, with the Niners leaning on Pearson for scoring. Pearson tallied seven points and five boards during the quarter, helping push the Charlotte lead to 32. Raventos handed out three more assists to reach 11, but the Eagles went on a 9-0 run themselves to bring the deficit to 23 points. A buzzer beater cut the deficit to 60-35 going into the fourth quarter. The third quarter featured Martin’s two scores, including an offensive rebound and putback.

In the fourth, the Niners put their foot on the Eagles’ necks, as Linney ran the fast break to perfection on the way to a 10-0 run to open the gates. Charlotte built its largest lead at the 6:57 mark, when they went up by 35 points. By the game’s end, the 49ers had scored 54 points in the paint to CSU’s 22, and converted 35 points off of turnovers. Charlotte won the game 78-49 after Harley scored the final points.

“We were supposed to come out and beat that team. …. It doesn’t mean we’re where we need to be,” Consuegra said. “We still have to keep working and improving because we still have a lot of good teams in front of us on this schedule. We’re going to stay urgent and we’re going to keep working.”

Charlotte will play its next game on the road as the Arkansas Razorbacks will play host on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. The game will be the start of another three-game road trip, and can be seen on SEC Network Plus.

Pirates prevail, 58-55 over 49ers

Nyilah Jamison-Myers puts up a shot over ECU’s Thais Oliveira in last year’s matchup. NT File photo. 

Amaya Ransom tallied 15 points, Nyilah Jamison-Myers added 13 points and three blocks, but the Charlotte 49ers were unable to close out rival ECU in a 58-55 loss on Thursday. Ransom and Jamison-Myers were joined in double figures by Laia Raventos’ 12 points and four steals, and all three of them collected seven rebounds apiece. Octavia Wilson and Jaida Robinson both added six rebounds apiece.

East Carolina was led by Necole Hope’s 15 points and Ariyana Williams’ 14 points. Thais Oliveira added a near double-double with 10 points and eight boards before fouling out in 23 minutes of action. Williams drained four three-pointers in the contest and Hope had three, and the Pirates outscored the Niners on the perimeter 27-6. ECU hit nine of their 26 attempts from tri-fecta land while Charlotte shot 2-7 (28.6 percent).

“Very disappointing game for us. I felt like, over our first six games, we were getting better as a team, and tonight we took several steps back,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “We’re a better team than what we showed tonight, and I think that’s the most disappointing thing. … The number of missed layups, missed free throws were completely controllable on our end.”

Charlotte started off slow, as they shot 3-11 (27.3 percent) in the first quarter. Jamison-Myers started cooking early in the game, but the Pirates rattled off runs of 5-0 and then 6-2 to end the quarter up 15-10. The Pirates didn’t fare much better, shooting 6-22 (27.3 percent), but were able to end the quarter on a high note.

ECU kept rolling right into the second quarter, starting off with a 9-0 run on the strength of three straight treyballs. The Pirates built their biggest lead of the game, going up 30-16 around the midway point of the quarter. However, Charlotte raised their field goal percentage to 38 percent on the way to a 9-1 run to end the quarter. The Niners went into the half down 31-26.

The Pirates went on a mini 5-1 run to open the third quarter, but Charlotte started chipping away at the deficit. First, the 49ers went on a 6-3 run, followed by an 8-0 run, to gain their first lead of the night. Charlotte converted 7 of their 13 field goal attempts (54 percent) compared to 5 of 17 (29 percent) for ECU. The Niners went ahead 46-43 at the third quarter buzzer.

The game slowed down in pace but picked up in excitement in the fourth. The teams battled back and forth and the game had multiple lead changes, culminating in a tie ball game at 53 with less than four minutes remaining. Williams hit her final, go-ahead three-pointer with less than three minutes remaining, and Charlotte was unable to recover. The Niners, who shot 15-30 from the free throw line in the contest, went cold in the fourth quarter. Wilson missed a free throw that would’ve tied the game at 56 after a foul, and Charlotte went 1-7 from the line in the final frame. ECU’s Justice Gee knocked down her free throws to give ECU a 58-55 lead, but Charlotte’s long three-point attempt at the buzzer didn’t go down.

“This was a winnable game for us. If we control what we should, we win this game,” Consuegra said. “The bottom line is, no matter where we play, we have to become a better team in practice, and we have to put in work on our own. And we have to go out and play up to our potential. If we do that, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

With the win, ECU improved to 3-4 on the year, while Charlotte fell to 2-5. However, the Niners’ road trip is complete, and they will host the Coppin State Eagles at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be their first home game since mid-November. In partnership with CMPD, fans can receive free admission if they bring a stuffed animal to donate.

Buzzer beater thwarts 49ers’ efforts

Laia Raventos looks to drive against Duquesne. Credit: Chris Crews

 

Point guard Laia Raventos dazzled with 21 points and five dimes, Amaya Ransom hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 10 seconds left, but South Dakota State’s Madison Guebert hit a three at the buzzer to defeat the Charlotte 49ers 71-70 in their last game at the Puerto Rico Clasico in Fort Lauderale, FL. Ransom’s treyball was her second of the game, and she finished with 16 points and four rebounds. She and Raventos were joined in double figures by Octavia Wilson, who netted 10 points.

Macy Miller led the Jackrabbits with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists, and she hit four of her eight three-point attempts. Guebert was the only other Jackrabbit in double figures, and she contributed 20 points (including 5-9 from 3PT) in 34 minutes of action. South Dakota State was relentless from the perimeter, as they hit 14 of their 28 threes, compared to Charlotte’s 3-8 (37.5 percent) shooting from downtown.

“This was by far our most complete game of the season. I thought we played very, very well,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “Defensively, our game plan was very solid and I thought our players executed it great. … it really just came down to them making one more shot than us.”

The Niners came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter, as they built a 18-13 advantage after one. The Charlotte zone paid dividends against SDSU. Despite their red-hot shooting, the Niners were able to go on runs of 6-0 and 5-1 as Raventos and Wilson found their grooves early. However, the Jackrabbits’ bench was able to keep them in the game. Two SDSU players, Tylee Irwin and Rylie Cascio Jensen, hit two three-pointers each in the game to help the Jackrabbits win the battle in bench points, 17-12.

In the second period, the teams traded baskets throughout. The seesaw battle saw Raventos and Nyilah Jamison-Myers (nine points) assert themselves. However, the zone started leaving gaps on the perimeter for the Jackrabbits, as Miller and Cascio Jensen took advantage. The quarter also saw aggressive drives from Wilson (4-4 from FT line) and Dara Pearson (11 total rebounds). Despite outscoring Charlotte 21-20 in the quarter, Guebert continued firing from long range, and the sniper landed another treyball just before the half to narrow Charlotte’s lead to 38-34.

South Dakota State picked up where they left off in the third quarter, surrendering twos and converting threes as Miller asserted herself from the perimeter. Raventos led the Niners, as her passing and athletic drives to the basket helped raise Charlotte’s field goal and free throw percentage. The Jackrabbits began to seize control towards the end, as they went on a 6-0 run, but Raventos’ drive and free throws gave Charlotte the lead again, 54-53 going into the final quarter.

After going up by seven, 64-57, the Niners saw South Dakota State go on an 8-0 run of their own in the fourth. The drama intensified in the final 90 seconds, as both teams traded and-ones: Wilson’s and-one gave Charlotte a 67-65 lead, but Guebert’s clutch drive led to an and-one of her own, and SDSU went up 68-67. Ransom then hit the go-ahead treyball with 10 ticks left, and Charlotte deflected the ball out of bounds with less than four seconds remaining. However, Guebert got the ball after a timeout and launched the game winning three pointer at the buzzer to give the Jackrabbits the win.

“Most important thing is we’re competing hard and we’re getting better,” Consuegra said. “This schedule was set up for us to be challenged, to lose some games, to find out what we’re made of and where we need to improve. … Almost every team we’ve played so far is gonna be playing in the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT. We’re doing that for a purpose.”

Charlotte will return home and then will hit the road again on Nov. 30, as they will travel to in state rival ECU for another non-conference battle. The game will be played in Greenville, NC and will tip off at 5:30 p.m.

49ers fall to FAU on Senior Day

Hasaan Klugh breaks the goal line plane to score against FAU. Credit: Chris Crews

Jeff Driskell completed 18 of his 22 passes for 245 yards and two scores, tailback Devin Singletary had 108 yards and two more touchdowns, and the FAU Owls used a dominant first half to spoil Charlotte’s Senior Day, 31-12. The Owls moved to 9-3 after the win, including a 8-0 mark in conference play, to clinch the division and will play for the Conference USA Championship next week against North Texas.

Hasaan Klugh finished 10-21 for 171 yards, one passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown to lead the 49ers, while TL Ford II had two receptions for 50 yards in his last collegiate game. The 49ers (1-11, 1-7 C-USA) managed only 119 yards on the ground, which had been their bread and butter coming into the contest. Safety Ben DeLuca was the bright spot on defense, as the true sophomore had 16 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Jeff Gemmell had 13 tackles, and it was the sixth straight time he finished with at least 10.

“Offensively, we couldn’t get drives moving. In the first half, defensively, we couldn’t get off the field on third down,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “We came out the second half and played a lot better on third and fourth down on defense. … We gave up too many big plays on defense… they had 563 yards. … Give FAU credit. They’ve got a good football team.”

FAU got on the board first when Singletary punched in his first run at the 9:48 mark of the first quarter. The Owls extended the lead to 10-0 after a field goal with four minutes remaining, but the Charlotte special teams unit struggled. After a long drive, kicker Kyle Corbett missed a field goal from 45 yards out. He would also later miss an extra point attempt, and the Niners turned the ball over on downs after a fake punt-pass play fell incomplete.

In the second quarter, the Owls scored again, this time on a 20-yard pitch-and-catch pass play from Driskell to Kamrin Solomon. Charlotte finally got on the board when Klugh found running back Benny LeMay downfield for a 28-yard touchdown. LeMay, who finished with 45 yards rushing, had his second touchdown reception of the season. The Charlotte defense couldn’t get off the field, however, and Driskell found Willie Wright downfield for a 41-yard touchdown reception with a minute remaining until halftime. Wright, who tallied 103 receiving yards, helped push the FAU lead to 24-6 at the half.

The Owls scored their final touchdown early in the third period, when Singletary punched in a score from a yard out at the 10 minute mark. The Charlotte defense took a stand, as DeLuca forced his second fumble, and the 49ers were able to turn it into points. DeLuca’s fumble led to Klugh’s touchdown scamper with two minutes left in the third quarter, but the two point conversion try failed. Klugh’s score at the end of the third quarter marked the final margin, and the Niners fell 31-12.

“I told the seniors thank you. This is a group that came here, believed when no one else did when we started, and they put in a ton of work here. We really appreciate them and all that they’ve done,” Lambert said. “It’s not the record we wanted.  We had some opportunities to win some other games. It’s obviously not where we want to be. ….We have to move forward, get better and win games.”

The Niners’ calendar will flip to 2018, as the coaching staff will hit the road to start recruiting for next year’s class and will look to replace the 12 seniors. Departing from the team include seniors Karrington King, Chris Montgomery, Trent Bostick, TL Ford II and Uriah Lemay. Despite the record, Charlotte hopes to come back stronger than ever in 2018 and will look to showcase their progress during the annual Spring Game in April.