The Charlotte women's basketball team traveled to El Paso, TX, to face the UTEP Miners in the conference opener on Thursday, Jan. 13. Charlotte began conference play on a high note with a 71-59 win in their first game since Dec. 22.
With the win, the 49ers improve to 5-6 on the season and 1-0 in conference play. Charlotte bounces back with a big win as they look to ride the momentum in the following games.
This matchup was heavily contested throughout most of the game, with the first half being a back and forth affair between the two teams. Fourth-year Jada McMillian and fifth-year Octavia-Jett Wilson led the team with outstanding plays in the first half. Charlotte led 35-34 going into the halftime break with a 1-0 conference record on the line.
UTEP came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders and took a four-point advantage heading into the final period. With the momentum behind them, it was going to be tough for Charlotte to regain control of the game, but they did just that with a stingy defensive performance.
Charlotte played their best quarter of the season in the final period, only allowing the Miners to score six points and holding them to one for nine shooting. The 49ers' defensive presence was enough to enable Charlotte to pull out the win in dominating fashion.
Head Coach Cara Consuegra was ecstatic about the team's performance in the fourth quarter.
"I felt like we were executing right through the first three quarters but were getting beat on end of things," said Consuegra. "In the fourth quarter, we stopped allowing those things, executed defensively, and because of that, they weren't able to score."
This defensive effort was vital in the 49ers outscoring the Miners by 16 points in the fourth quarter, generating a 71-59 win in their conference opener.
Consuegra was very proud of how her team fought and continued to battle through adversity to win that game.
"Obviously, we're coming off of a ton of adversity like everyone around the country, and our players decided to fight through it. They came out here with the will to win and played with HEART," said Consuegra.
The 49ers were led by standout player Jett Wilson, who recorded a game-high 24 points and six rebounds. Whenever Charlotte needed a bucket, Jett-Wilson delivered. McMillian played a pivotal role in the solid fourth quarter for the 49ers as nine of her sixteen points came in the period and allowed Charlotte to pull away late.
The most significant areas of concern for the 49ers going into conference play were their paint defense and rebounding. This game was a step in the right direction as Charlotte outscored UTEP with points in the paint and managed to be within three rebounds as the Miners held the advantage 39-36. If the team hopes to maintain this impressive start to conference play, continuing to grow in these elements of winning basketball will serve them well.
Charlotte continues their road trip in Texas as they head to San Antonio to face off against the UTSA Roadrunners in another conference matchup. Tip-off will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15, due to winter weather in the Charlotte area, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.