CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDAM) _ A banged up band of Lady Eagles chased the University of North Carolina-Charlotte down to the wire Saturday afternoon.
But once the University of Southern Mississippi fell behind the Lady 49ers, it could never catch up in a 63-59 loss at Helton Arena.
The Lady Eagles (11-9, 3-6), who were without leading scorer Shonte Hailes (undisclosed injury), lost their fifth consecutive game.
USM led 21-18 after the first period, but the Lady 49ers came back to grab a three-point halftime lead, 34-31.
Charlotte (14-6, 5-4), which won its third consecutive game, pushed the lead out to as many as eight points in the final period.
But the gritty Lady Eagles declined to go away.
A Daishai Almond layup pulled USM within 56-54, with 3 minutes, 31 seconds, play. Charlotte pushed the lead back out to five points twice, and both times USM pushed back.
The final jab came after USM junior guard Allie Kennedy hit a 3-pointer with 49 seconds to play too get the Lady Eagles within 60-58. Thirty-five seconds later sophomore forward Kelsey Jones sank 1-of-2 free throws to get USM within 60-59 with 14 seconds to play.
But Charlotte made three free throws to close out the game.
Senior forward Respect Leaphart finished with a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Jones added 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots off the bench. Almond wound up eight points, seven assists and two steals.
UNCC got 18 points, four rebounds and a career-high five steals from senior guard Jade Phillips. Sophomore forward Jazmin Harris added 15 points and eight rebounds, while junior forward Dara Pearson chipped in seven points and seven rebounds.
USM will return home to Reed Green Coliseum, where it will host Marshall University at 6 p.m. Thursday.