The Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team began their season with a promising victory on Friday night when they defeated the Charleston Southern Buccaneers in Halton arena with a final score of 68-58.
In a game where the 49ers were missing some key players, a young Charlotte team took care of business in front of 4,429 in attendance.
Senior forward Chris Braswell and junior guard DeMario Mayfield did not play on Friday night after being suspended for violating team rules. Mayfield will also miss next Tuesday’s game against Georgia Southern.
Senior Forward JT Thompson was also inactive on Friday night due to an injury. The transfer from Virginia Tech is expected to play against Georgia Southern.
“I’m very, very happy with this win,” Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major told the media. “[Charleston Southern] was 19-12 last year and a game away from the NCAA tournament so we knew we had our hands full with this crew.”
The Buccaneers came out firing and built up an early nine-point lead on the 49ers. After Major called a timeout, the game changed and his team never looked back. Charlotte reeled off 15 straight points before Charleston Southern finally answered with a three point basket. The Buccaneers went through a 10 minute scoring drought, resulting in a one point 49er lead at halftime.
Charlotte outscored Charleston Southern 44-35 in the second half and made 15 of their 34 shots in the last 20 minutes to run away with the game.
Without the services of Mayfield, Thompson and Braswell, sophomore guards Pierria Henry and Terrance Williams stepped up for Charlotte.
Williams finished the game with a career high 19 points, 17 of them coming in the second half. Williams added 10 rebounds to his stat line to complete the first double-double of the season for a Charlotte player.
“When I came up to the high post and turned and looked, they wold back off so I would drive in and try to finish the play,” said Williams. “My teammates, they all got my back. I had a bad first half, couldn’t make anything. They just kept telling me to shoot the ball and be confident, so that’s what I did.”
Henry scored 10 points of his own and added a couple assists, but was extremely effective of the defensive side of the ball. Last season’s Atlantic 10 leader in steals, Henry took the ball away from Buccaneer players five times on Friday.
Despite shooting 7-20 from the field, sophomore guard Saah Nimley led all Charleston Southern scorers with 20 points. Nimley recorded two assists on the night but turned the ball over six times.
Neither team seemed to be able to find their shooting stroke on Friday night. For the game, the 49ers made 39 percent of their shots while the Buccaneers only managed to sink 29 percent of their attempts. Both teams shot 23 percent from three point range but Charlotte only fired 13 shots from behind the arc compared to Charleston Southern’s 34.
Charlotte was able to control the game with their size advantage. After getting in foul trouble early the Buccaneers were forced to play with an undersized line-up in a 2-3 zone. Charlotte doubled Charleston Southern in points in the paint, 36-18.
“We were in foul trouble from the tip,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh. “I think they called a foul when we were running out. We were playing our three man at the five, our two man at the four, so we had a hard time matching up with them.”
Although Charleston Southern managed to out rebound Charlotte, the 49ers held a significant advantage in second chance points, 25-10.
Charlotte scoring was fairly evenly distributed among the eight players who saw action against Charleston Southern. Victor Nickerson finished with 11 points, Willie Clayton had eight points, Denzel Ingram added seven, Darien Clark scored six, Mike Thorne made a couple baskets and Colby Lewis nailed a three pointer early in the second half.
“We’re very happy with this win, it’s hard fought and a good chance to keep growing as a team” Major added.
Neither team was particularly strong from the free throw line on Friday night. The 49ers only made 57 percent of their 33 shots from the charity stripe. the Buccaneers were not much better sinking 66 percent of their 18 foul shots.
Most of Charlotte’s free throw attempts came at the end of the game with Charleston Southern trying to extend the contest by fouling. The final 49er field goal attempt came with 5:31 left in the game.
The 49ers start the season 1-0 while the Buccaneers will have to go home 0-1. Charleston Southern will not have much time to rest before heading to Tucson, Az. to take on the Arizona Wildcats at the McKale Center on Sunday.
The Charlotte 49ers will now prepare for another home non-conference matchup. The Georgia Southern Eagles come to Halton Arena next Tuesday to take on the young 49ers. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised live on NBC Sports Network.