You can’t fault the Charlotte 49ers for showing a little fight in the end.
The problem was, they dropped another game to an opponent that they very well should have beaten handily, in a game where they probably shouldn’t have had to fight much in the first place.
An eighteen-turnover evening for Charlotte–eight by Willie Clayton–and 12-14 shooting from beyond the arc by the hosts were the difference in a 71-69 victory for Rice in Houston, their first Conference USA win since January 30, 2013.
It was another head-scratching loss for a team that had shown promise earlier in the season after beating Kansas State, Northeastern and Michigan en route to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off crown. But Charlotte has now lost to two sub-250 RPI teams in two weeks–UTSA and now the Owls.
Early on, at least, the Niners (12-7, 3-3 C-USA) looked as if they would handle the Owls. But Rice (6-13, 1-5), led by four threes each by Seth Gearhart and Austin Ramljak, surged ahead and led by as many as 12 in the second half. The Niners didn’t help their own matters as poor ball control and just 4-16 shooting from three point range poured salt in the growing wound. Eventually Charlotte would come around and begin to hit their shots, but it proved to be too little, too late in the end as Ben Cherry’s game winner fell short.
Gearhart led the way for the Owls with 16 points, with Ramljak scoring 13. Shawn Lester led all scorers with 18 points and 6 rebounds; Clayton’ 13 points and 11 boards gave him another double-double–but his eight turnovers were a red mark on his night. Charlotte did hold a 35-26 edge on the glass.
The Niners welcome Florida Atlantic to Halton Arena on Thursday (7pm).
WBB: Charlotte 58, Rice 53
Ny Hammonds scored 16, Gabby Tyler chipped in 14 and the Niners improved to 10-9 (4-2 C-USA) with a win over the visiting Owls.
Charlotte couldn’t bottle up Jessica Kuster (27 points, 12 rebounds), but they didn’t need to. Out of the twelve players that saw the court for the Owls, only four scored: Kuster, Christal Porter (10), Maya Hawkins (8) and Jasmine Goodwine (8). The Niners held Rice to 9-33 shooting in the 2nd half and just 2-13 from three during the course of the game as they overcame 21 turnovers.
Charlotte heads to UAB on Wednesday for an 8pm ET tip.