CHARLOTTE USES STRONG SECOND HALF TO HOLD OFF VCU, 68-58
RICHMOND, Va. – Senior forward Courtney Hurt scored a game-high 24 points and classmate Andrea Barbour added 17, but it wasn't enough to counter a strong second half by undefeated Charlotte as the 49ers handed the Rams a 68-58 setback Tuesday evening at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
Trailing by 10 with 11 minutes to go, Hurt scored 10 of the game's next 12 points to pull VCU within 44-42 with 8:03 to play. However, Charlotte went on to score in seven of its next eight possessions and maintained at least a three-point lead to hold off VCU's chance at a rally.
Charlotte (5-0) snapped the Rams' two-game winning streak, while picking up its fifth straight victory to start the season under first-year head coach Cara Consuegra. Consuegra is the only coach in program history to win her first five games at the helm.
Hurt added nine rebounds and shot a season high 12 of 13 from the free throw line, while Barbour collected five boards, two assists, two blocks and two steals. Freshman Aprill McRae added a career-high eight points and four rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench.
Epiphany Woodson paced four Charlotte players in double-figure scoring with 19 points. Jennifer Hailey chipped in 18 and Paige McCallum added 11 and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Rams (2-2) got off to a hot start hitting five of their first eight from the field, while forcing four Charlotte turnovers, and jumped out to a 10-2 advantage less than 3:30 into the contest. Barbour had six points during the run.
Trailing 12-6 with 13:39 to go, Charlotte settled down and reeled off 10 straight over the next four minutes, capped off by a jumper from Ny Hammonds, to take its first lead of the game.
A pair of Barbour free throws and a fast break layup from Hurt knotted the game at 16-16 with 8:30 showing before Jessica Hailey scored on back-to-back possessions to put Charlotte back in front. VCU didn't back down and answered with a 7-0 run as senior Jennifer Lane gave VCU a 23-20 lead two minutes later.
The Rams remained in front the rest of the half until Charlotte stole an inbounds pass from the baseline and drove the length of the floor and found Hammonds under the basket with five seconds left, which gave the 49ers a narrow 24-23 lead at the break.
Charlotte never relinquished the lead and went up 37-28 after a 13-5 spurt spanning the first six minutes of the second stanza. The 49ers would increase their lead to as many as 10 with 11 minutes to play before VCU began to mount a comeback.
The Rams continued to chip away at the lead and pulled within 44-42 on a pair of free throws by Hurt with 8:03 left but it was as close as VCU would get as Charlotte led by at least three the rest of the way.
After the Black & Gold made it a one possession game, the 49ers scored on five straight and seven of the next eight possessions and maintained their five-point advantage with 1:39 remaining. Barbour cut the lead to 61-58 with a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession but Charlotte quickly went back ahead by five before hitting 4 of 5 from the free throw line during the final 42 seconds.
Tuesday's loss was unfamiliar territory for VCU as the Rams had not lost back-to-back home games to start a season since 2004-05.
VCU returns to the road on Sunday, Nov. 27 when it travels to Winthrop for a 1 p.m., tipoff against the Eagles. The Rams have won all three games in the series, including each of the past two seasons. The Black & Gold returns to the Verizon Wireless Arena when it hosts cross-town rival Richmond on Dec. 1 before opening Colonial Athletic Association play against Northeastern at home on Dec. 4.