FT. MYERS, Fla. – Charlotte closed within one during the second half but costly mistakes down the stretch prevented it from completing a full comeback, as the 49ers dropped a 78-73 decision at FGCU Wednesday night to close a three-game road swing.
The Niners placed two players in double figures, including a game-high 20 points from senior Ny Hammonds to fall one short of her overall best. She was joined by junior Ayanna Holmes, who poured in career-best 16 points, including a personal high of four 3-pointers.
Sophomore Kira Gordon nearly added a double-double, finishing with nine points and a career-best 10 boards to lead all players on the glass. Junior Olivia Rankin chipped in a career-high eight points, hitting 3-of-4 field goals in only 15 minutes.
Stephanie Haas topped the Eagles with 19 points, pacing a quartet with double-figure scoring. Sarah Hansen (17 points), Whitney Knight (15) and Jenna Cobb (13) also were members of the group for the home squad.
Facing a six-point difference at the break, Holmes opened the second session with a corner 3-pointer just 19 seconds in to cut it in half, 42-39. Unfortunately for Charlotte, it could not sustain the momentum as FGCU ripped off a 10-1 run in the next five minutes, increasing its lead to a dozen, 52-40.
Freshman Ciara Gregory halted the surge with a triple and Gordon connected on a layup at 12:29 to trim the gap to seven, 52-45. Then, over the next 4:22, the 49ers outrebounded the Eagles, 11-2 and used the caroms to their advantage with a 7-0 spurt to close within two, 54-52, with 8:07 to play. A blocked shot out-of-bounds by redshirt junior Gabby Tyler punctuated the stretch, sending the teams into the under-eight media timeout with Charlotte only down the single bucket.
Back-to-back layups from Sarah Hansen increased the deficit to six, but five-straight 49ers points brought the visitors within just one, 58-57, with 4:40 remaining. The Niners were down two, playing strong defense, when a desperation 3-pointer by Knight went in just before the shot clock expired at 3:12.
Holmes was then pick-pocketed in the backcourt and Hansen raced to the other end for layup and an and-one, quickly turning the one-possession game into an eight-point edge for FGCU. Missed shots would then befell Charlotte, as the Eagles were able to increase their margin to as high as 11, 73-62, with 1:09 left.
Trifectas in the last 69 seconds by Holmes, Hammonds and junior Hillary Sigmon showed fight, but in the end, it was not enough to complete the comeback.
A roller coaster first half featured both teams mounting runs but neither able to pull away by more than double digits. The Niners raced out to a 7-0 start, including a 3-pointer from Holmes to start a new streak for the squad from behind the arc.
FGCU then responded with eight-in-a-row, started by a Knight triple, to take its first lead. Alexis Alexander’s put-back on her own miss allowed Charlotte (1-3) to reclaim the edge, 11-10, with 14:56 left. The score would remain unchanged for the next two minutes until DyTiesha Dunson dropped in the second of two free throws to force the game’s first tie, 11-11.
The 49ers built three two-point advantages, but nothing more, over the next three minutes before Haas drained a 3-pointer at 9:56 to push the Eagles back on top, 18-17. It would be the start of a 14-5 FGCU (3-0) spurt in a four-and-a-half minute span, giving it a 30-22 cushion with 5:28 left on another trey, this time by Hansen. Hansen tallied the final six points during the surge.
A Cobb layup on a Knight backcourt steal at 4:57 provided the Eagles with their largest lead, 33-24, and caused the Niners to call a timeout. Charlotte, however, did not quit and used four-straight Rankin points and a pair of free throws from Holmes to climb back within a single possession, 33-30, at the 3:46 mark.
Gregory was called for a foul on a 3-pointer and Kaneisha Atwater hit all three of her charity tosses, making it a six-point difference once again. The 49ers kept at it, cutting the deficit to two, 36-34, on Holmes’ second triple of the period.
FGCU then closed the half on a 6-2 spurt to enter the intermission with the six-point, 42-36, advantage.
Charlotte returns to action with two home games next on its docket, starting at 7 p.m. Saturday against UCF. The mini-homestand concludes at 7 p.m. Tuesday when Winthrop makes its first appearance in Halton Arena for the first time since Jan. 5, 2008.
All home 49ers contests can be viewed live on Charlotte49ers.com with Josh Feldman handling the play-by-play call. Updates are also available through Twitter by following @49erGameDay.
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