The 49ers begin their season looking for a win against a strong Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs team. 

“I think they’re a really good team, I’ve been impressed with watching them on film from the end of the year last year,” said Charlotte Head Coach Cara Consuegra.  

Gardner-Webb returns three of their four top scorers from last year, including First Team All-Conference Big South player, guard Carley Plentovich. Last season, Plentovich averaged 14 points per game on 38 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent shooting from three-point range. Additionally, Plentovich excelled at drawing contact and garnering fouls, as she made 86 percent of her 115 free throw opportunities last season. 

“Their guard play, in particular, is very good, which should make for an interesting matchup because our guards are strong as well,” said Consuegra.  

Plentovich’s backcourt mate and younger sister Savannah Plentovich, adds another capable scorer to the Runnin’ Bulldogs already rich guard depth.  

Containing and limiting the Plentovich sisters and the rest of the Gardner-Webb backcourt members will be critical for Charlotte guards Mariah Linney, Jada McMillian and Jade Phillips. Linney, McMillian and Phillips comprise an experienced backcourt with an abundance of defensive ability that should prove to help the 49ers significantly against a strong Runnin’ Bulldogs backcourt. 

Similarly to Charlotte, Gardner-Webb plays stifling defense, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs allowed a meager average of 63.8 points per game to opposing offenses last season. The Gardner-Webb defense, led by Plentovich and forward Gabrielle Caponegro, averaged an astounding 11.8 steals per game. This statistic ranked the Runnin’ Bulldogs among some of the stingiest defenses in the country. For Charlotte’s first-year starting point guard, McMillian, ball security and disciplined decision making will be a premium as the 49ers are 65-67 overall under Consuegra when they commit more turnovers than their opponent.  

“I think they are going to challenge us with their defensive presence, and the way they mix some things up,” said Consuegra. 

The Runnin’ Bulldogs’ defense did, however, struggled to rebound as they posted a -3.9 rebound margin last season. In contrast, the 49ers posted a +2.5 rebound margin a season ago. As tenacious rebounder Dara Pearson makes her return from redshirting last season, the 49ers may have a significant rebounding advantage. Furthermore, the 49ers may look to exploit their presence in the paint on the offensive end, as perimeter shot opportunities may be sparse against the premier Gardner-Webb perimeter defense. 

The 49ers and Consuegra are eager to start their season against such a talented and successful team. 

“I’m excited for the opportunity to play such a good team to start the year; I am looking forward to it,” said Consuegra. 

Charlotte tips off against Gardner-Webb on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. 

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