The Charlotte women's basketball team defeated Rice in the Conference USA (C-USA) tournament quarterfinals on Thursday, March 10, 59-53. The 49ers struggled early but put things together down the stretch to move on in the tournament.
With the win over the Owls, the 49ers lead the series 9-3. These two teams played in a game that went into four overtimes earlier, with Charlotte winning 88-83.
The 49ers looked sloppy in the first quarter against Rice and not up to par, but they fought back to win. Head Coach Cara Consuegra reflected on the contest.
"This was a tough, hard-fought victory for our team," said Consuegra. "Credit to Rice, they played well down the stretch and made things difficult for us. At the end of the day, we just made enough winning plays. If we start better in the first quarter, it's probably a different game. Our defense in the last three quarters was just outstanding. That's what we hang our hat on, and that's what we'll continue to do."
Charlotte was slow to start, only scoring nine points in the first quarter. Mikayla Boykin got off to a hot start as she scored six of the 49ers' nine points. Rice led by eight heading into the second quarter.
While the Niners struggled in the first, Rice scored 17 points. The Owls shot 46.67% from the field in the quarter, while Charlotte shot 23.08%.
The 49ers started to get things together in the second quarter as Charlotte drained three jumpers in the first minute and a half to narrow the deficit to just two, 17-15. Rice answered with a seven-point run of their own and took a nine-point lead. With two minutes left in the half, Rice led by seven, but Boykin knocked down two jumpers to push her total to 14 and narrowed the Rice lead to three going into the break.
Three minutes into the second half, a layup from Octavia Jett-Wilson off a Jada McMillian steal gave Charlotte the lead. Despite Rice's attempts to retake the lead, efficient scoring from the 49ers extended their lead to as many as eight. Charlotte led heading into the final quarter of play, 44-40.
Charlotte scored 21 points in the quarter and shot 50.00% from the field while making 10 of their 11 free throw attempts.
The fourth quarter was a contested battle. Rice opened up the quarter with an 8-3 run to regain their lead, but two made free throws from Boykin gave the 49ers a one-point with 6:08 in the game. The game was tied at 51-51 with 04:16 remaining as both teams were looking to gain the advantage.
Stellar defense and efficient shooting would be the name of the game for the 49ers as they went on a 7-2 run to close out the victory, 59-53.
Boykin, who earned C-USA second-team honors, was hot from the field. She led the 49ers in scoring with 20, her third time reaching the 20 point mark in her Charlotte basketball career. She shot 50% from the field and from beyond the arc. Boykin had an outstanding performance as she led the 49ers to the win.
C-USA Player of the Year, Jett-Wilson, was also a massive part of the scoring effort for the 49ers, recording 16 points. She struggled from the field, only shooting 3-12 but her perfect 9/9 from the line made up for it.
Keke McKinney proved why she deserved C-USA Defensive Player of the Year honors as she recorded a steal, nine rebounds and four blocks in the quarterfinal game. This was nothing new for McKinney, who had had over four blocks nine times this season.
With the win over the Owls, the 49ers move onto the C-USA tournament semifinals, where they will play the North Texas Mean Green, who took down Old Dominion 65-58. The game will tip-off at 5:30 pm on Friday, March 11, at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. The game will be available for streaming on Stadium and 730 The Game, ESPN Charlotte.