College Basketball

Wake Forest thwarts Charlotte 49ers’ late chance at WNIT win

Charlotte 49ers forward Kira Gordon, right, drives the ball against Wake Forest’s Destini Walker during Thursday night's Women's NIT game at UNC Charlotte Halton Arena.
Charlotte 49ers forward Kira Gordon, right, drives the ball against Wake Forest’s Destini Walker during Thursday night's Women's NIT game at UNC Charlotte Halton Arena. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte’s women’s basketball team saw its season end at the hands of an old postseason nemesis.

The 49ers had their chances in the final seconds, but Wake Forest held on for a 72-69 victory on Thursday night at Halton Arena in the first round of the Women’s NIT tournament.

Charlotte (19-12) had pulled within 71-69 with 14.3 seconds remaining, but its shot at tying the score was thwarted when Deacons guard Ariel Stephenson stripped the ball away from guard Lefty Webster as Webster drove the lane.

Alexis Alexander scored a game-high 21 points, Webster added 17 and Ciara Gregory 11 for Charlotte, which led by as many as eight points early in the third quarter before Wake Forest (17-15) rallied.

The Deacons hold a 10-4 edge all-time over the 49ers, including the past six games, and are 3-0 against Charlotte in WNIT games.

Three who mattered

Elisa Penna: Had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds for Wake Forest, which dominated Charlotte inside.

Alexis Alexander: Was 10 of 16 from the field, and also pulled down a team-best eight rebounds for the 49ers.

Amber Campbell: Scored 16 points to lead the Deacons, including a 3-pointer with 1:58 left that put them up 70-65.

Observations

▪ Charlotte managed to take a 33-31 halftime lead despite turning the ball over 13 times and Wake Forest enjoying an 11-4 advantage in offensive rebounds.

▪ Part of what kept the 49ers close over the first two quarters was the Deacons’ poor shooting – just 31.4 percent from the field (11 of 35), and 3 of 12 on 3-pointers.

▪ Charlotte shot 46.2 percent from the field (12 of 26), including 6 of 8 on 3-pointers, in the first half. The 49ers also had nine assists over their 12 baskets.

▪ The 49ers ended up outshooting the Deacons on Thursday – 42.1 percent from the field (24 of 57) to 38.8 percent (26 of 67). The extra chances for Wake Forest came from 20 Charlotte turnovers.

▪ Wake Forest also finished with a 45-34 rebounding advantage over the 49ers, including a 22-11 edge in offensive boards. That led to an 18-4 advantage in second-chance points.

Worth mentioning

▪ Stephenson finished with 11 points for the Deacons, as did Destini Walker.

▪ Wake Forest’s second-round game will be Monday against either Florida Gulf Coast (28-5) or Bethune-Cookman (18-12). The location is still to be determined.

They said it

▪ “We knew that we could defend them; the issue was could we box them out. It was difficult for them to score … we just couldn’t keep them off the boards. That was my fear coming into this game, that we couldn’t keep them off the boards. That’s been our nemesis all season -- because we’re a small team, it’s very difficult for us to box out teams that are bigger than us. But we tried, we just didn’t get the job done.” – Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra.

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