MANHATTAN, Kan. – A second-half rally, fueled by over 40-percent shooting from the floor, almost lifted the Charlotte women’s basketball team to a victory Sunday afternoon; however, the deficit was too much to overcome and the 49ers fell, 73-65, at Kansas State.
Four Niners found themselves in double-figure scoring, led by junior Ayanna Holmes’ 15. She was one point better than junior Hillary Sigmon, who finished with 14, including a team-high three 3-pointers. Sophomore Kira Gordon chipped in 11, while freshman Lefty Webster joined the group with 10 points off the bench.
Letty Romero paced all players with 25 points, draining all seven of her field goals and contributing a 10-of-14 performance at the foul line. She was the lone Wildcat in double figures and also led the home squad with eight boards.
Down 11 at the intermission, Charlotte (1-1) allowed Kansas State to push the margin to as much as 15, 45-30, by the 15:38 mark. However, the 49ers ripped off a 7-0 spurt during the next 1:21, as Holmes earned an old-fashioned three-point play to get things started to cut the gap to eight, 45-37, with 14:17 left.
The Wildcats answered with an 11-0 surge of their own, covering the next three minutes, stretching the margin back to 19, 56-37, on a pair of Kelly Thomson free throws at 10:21. A Ciara Gregory triple from the wing helped keep the Niners within 13, 56-43, with 9:29 remaining but Romero countered with one of her own two possessions later.
An old-fashioned three-point play from Gordon and a triple in front of her own bench by Holmes sliced the deficit to 12, 65-53, entering the final five minutes of regulation. Following a Romero free throw at 4:36 for a 66-53 KSU lead, Charlotte netted a 12-3 run, closing within four, 69-65, with 16 seconds to go. Unfortunately for the 49ers, time was not on their side and they were forced to foul the Wildcats down the stretch, deciding the final outcome.
Charlotte found itself in a hole early thanks to a couple quick 3-pointers by Kindred Wesemann and missed opportunities on the other end, as it failed to convert on its opening 10 shots. Sigmon then got the engine started with a 3-pointer from the corner, extending the Niners’ streak to 80-straight games with at least one trey.
Sigmon stayed hot from long range, burying three in the half, but Kansas State (2-0) was able to push its advantage to as high as 24, 29-5, by the 8:50 mark. The Wildcats were able to pad their advantage by putting the 49ers into foul trouble, as Charlotte was saddled with 19 first-half infractions.
Despite the disparity early in fouls and the lack of shots finding the bottom of the net, the Niners did not quit and turned up the tempo defensively. Charlotte was aided by two of Sigmon’s 3-pointers, and another from Holmes, to trim the margin to 16, 32-16, entering the final six minutes. The 49ers then posted seven-straight points at the foul line, all from Holmes and Webster, and suddenly the deficit was at a dozen.
Keeping the defensive pressure on Kansas State, the offensive efforts began to pay-off and on an Alexis Alexander jumper at 1:58, Charlotte was only down 12, 37-25. Meme Garner then was able to tally her first collegiate point on the front end of a two-shot foul opportunity and Sigmon’s driving layup with 12 seconds to play pulled the 49ers within 11 at the break, 39-28.
Charlotte’s loss is its first in a true road game since Feb. 22, 2012, when it dropped a one-point decision at Saint Louis. The Niners were one of just four schools to finish 2012-13 unbeaten in true road contests, posting an 11-0 record.
Another quick turnaround for another tough opponent awaits Charlotte next, as it will hit the road to Minneapolis Wednesday to face Big 10 foe Minnesota at 8 p.m. EST. The Golden Gophers started their season Saturday with a road triumph at UNI and have earned two votes in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
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