CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte women’s basketball will look to close the regular season on a strong note when it plays host to Rice at 7 p.m. Thursday to tip-off the final two home games of 2015-16. The 49ers have won five of their last six to hold the all-important No. 4 seed for the upcoming Conference USA Championships.
RICE OWLS (8-19, 7-9 C-USA) Head coach: Tina Langley First season 8-19 at Rice and overall Assistants: Josh Hutchinson Angie Nelp Sydney Colson Alexis Popelar (DOBO)
Opponent profile: Rice • Charlotte will tip-off the final two home games of the regular season when it plays host to Rice Thursday night inside Halton Arena. • It marks only the third home game for the 49ers since the start of February, as they have spent the majority of the time on the road the last five weeks. • The Owls are under the direction of Tina Langley, one of three first-year head coaches in Conference USA. Langley, along with fellow newcomer coach Marlin Chinn of FIU, both served on the staff at Maryland prior to taking their current respective positions. • Rice is one of five two-time opponents on the Niners’ C-USA docket this season, joining Old Dominion, WKU, Marshall and North Texas. • Charlotte claimed a 69-58 victory in the previous meeting in Houston, Feb. 11, behind a strong fourth-quarter effort. Grace Hunter finished as the team’s leading scorer for the fourth-straight time with her 19 points, as she entered the contest having won the previous two Conference USA Freshman of the Week honors.
Niner Nuggets • The final two home regular-season games are on the docket this week for Charlotte women’s basketball, starting with a 7 p.m. tip Thursday against Rice. • Charlotte owns a 10-2 record inside Halton Arena entering the stretch, its 13th double-digit win campaign in the last 14 seasons on its home floor. The Niners have won six straight at home, all against league opponents, after dropping the C-USA opener Jan. 3. • Grace Hunter made a statement case to solidify her candidacy for Conference USA Freshman of the Year this past week, earning her fourth league freshman of the week honor, and third in in less than a month, when the conference bestowed upon her the accolade Feb. 29. She tallied her sixth career double-double at UTSA Feb. 25 before netting a career-high 32 points on 13-of-15 field goals, including a 9-of-9 start, two days later at UTEP, the regular-season Conference USA champion. • Hunter’s four freshman of the week awards ties her with Gabby Tyler (2010-11, Atlantic 10) for the most by one player in a single season in program history. Hunter’s four coupled with one by Laia Raventós are the most for the 49ers in a single season. • Hunter also joins senior Alexis Alexander as Charlotte players to post at least 30 points in a single game this year, becoming just the second set of teammates to accomplish the feat in a single season and the first to do it since 1981-82. The tandem gives the Niners one of only two schools, joining WKU, to have two 30-plus scorers this season in Conference USA. • Hunter’s 32 points match two others, Epiphany Woodson and Hillary Sigmon, for the most points scored by a 49ers player under head coach Cara Consuegra. • Charlotte’s contest at UTEP Feb. 27 went to double overtime, only the fifth game in school history to extend at least that far. Four of the five concluded in double overtime, while the longest in program history was a three-overtime win over Wake Forest Dec. 19, 1993. • The 49ers enter the final week of the regular season in the No. 4 spot for the upcoming Conference USA Championships, March 8-12, in Birmingham, Alabama. With a magic number of one, Charlotte can secure the No. 4 seed and a double-bye into the quarterfinals round with various scenarios of outcomes. Only two other schools, Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion, have a chance to claim the No. 4 positioning.