Women’s Basketball: Owls were unable to handle Octavia Jett-Wilson’s 42-point outburst in the 83-73 loss at Charlotte

FAU was unable to overcome an incredible 42 points from Niners guard Octavia Jett-Wilson.

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Alexa Zaph (pictured #34) communicates with her teammates in a team huddle. Photo courtesy of Sam Roberts from Charlotte Athletics.

John DeStefano, Contributing Writer

One day removed from earning their first-ever win in Halton Arena, FAU women’s basketball (10-10, 8-8 C-USA) dropped their final game of Conference USA play Saturday afternoon to the Charlotte 49ers (10-9, 9-5 C-USA), 83-73. 

Senior guard Octavia Jett-Wilson was phenomenal for the Niners, scoring an outrageous 42 points on 13-25 shooting from the field while making all her 14 free throws.  

Ball movement was the name of the game for Charlotte as the 49ers normally rely on their excellent team passing to get open looks, and the looks were certainly there against a shaky Owls defense.

Most notable in the first half was the relative absence of FAU’s own phenom guard, graduate transfer Iggy Allen. Allen was shockingly quiet over the first twenty minutes, finishing the first half with just six points without attempting a free-throw.

It was not a lack of effort or efficiency that kept Allen largely off the score sheet; Charlotte’s defense was just that good on Saturday.. From the get go, Niners head coach Cara Conquegra’s strategy was built on denying Allen any space to operate.

‘Shut her down and make someone else beat us,’ was seemingly written on the wall of every defensive possession.

FAU had answers to that challenge in the form of junior guard Rita Pleskevich, who connected on three three-pointers in the second quarter, including two in a 13-second span, and redshirt sophomore forward Janeta Rozentale, who continued her fine late-season play, ending with 13 points and 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the year.

Indeed, the Owls seemed well suited for another back-and-forth contest as the Niners led 49-45 at halftime.

When Allen appeared to ignite midway through the third quarter following a three-pointer, the feel of the entire contest began to change, which tends to happen when she begins to feel the explosive energy that is so essential to her game. She appeared to challenge Jett-Wilson and the two would go at it on nearly every possession as they frequently drew each other on defense, but it was Jett-Wilson who had the last laugh on her way to her second 40-point game this season.

FAU sliced what had been a 12-point lead down to three, following a triple by senior forward Astou Gaye. However, Jett-Wilson sensed the moment and turned the tide with flashes to the rim and the ensuing 17-6 Niners run put the game out of reach.

The outcome may certainly have been different, if not for a third quarter stretch that saw Allen pick up three quick fouls in succession, which hamstrung her ability to be aggressive in the game’s late stages.

Though she was clearly the star of the show, Jett-Wilson could not have done it alone.

Throughout much of the contest, redshirt senior forward Dara Pearson, who carried just over a four point scoring average on the year, presented a problem at both ends of the floor for the Owls. She grabbed three offensive rebounds and finished the series against FAU averaging 11 points per game.

Junior guard Jada McMillan was equally efficient for the Niners, putting up 13 points and pulling down eight boards while playing the full 40 minutes.

Defense has not been the Owls’ strong suit all season, and today was further proof of just how much work still must be done as the team now looks to the Conference USA tournament. 

FAU will be headed to Frisco, Texas this upcoming Monday to compete for the title of Conference USA Champions. The tournament will start on March 10 and conclude on March 13.

The Owls have the third seed in the East division as they will face the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) on March 10 at 3:30 p.m. It will be broadcast on ESPN+.

John DeStefano is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Johns_voice.