Bouncing back from their first conference loss of the 2012-13 season was not an issue for Charlotte in their annual “white-out” game on Wednesday night at Halton Arena. With contributions from four double-digit scorers, the 49ers defeated the Xavier Musketeers, 63-57, in another hard fought Atlantic 10 (A-10) conference game.
Before the game, Charlotte guard DeMario Mayfield was placed into the starting line-up for the first time this season. The junior responded with a 13-point performance and made a couple clutch jump shots towards the end of the game to put the final nails in the Musketeers’ coffin.
Mayfield told the media after the game, “Personally, I’ve never beaten Xavier, so it’s a huge win.”
Wednesday’s performance marks Mayfield’s seventh consecutive game with double-digit scoring and Charlotte is now 7-1 when he scores 13 points or more.
The squads on the court seemed evenly matched and ran similar styles of offense, particularly in the first half. Eight lead changes were involved in the first half alone and the 49ers entered the locker room at halftime with a one-point lead (28-27) despite shooting just 4-12 (33.3%) from the free throw line.
“It was like we were playing ourselves,” Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major said of the Xavier matchup. “Very physical team. Xavier had been the standard in this conference and you guys know about the A-10. For us to get a win against them is a great credit to these kids.”
The second half featured improved shooting for both teams, both from the field and the foul line.
Fortunately for Charlotte, the Musketeers’ improvements were not as significant. The 49ers relied on stifling defense to hold Xavier to just 36.8% shooting and only nine free throw attempts in the entire game.
“Credit to them, they’re who we thought they were,” said Xavier Head Coach Chris Mack in a frustrated tone. “They’re physical and strong around the rim. The freshmen were really impressive, Willie Clayton and Darion Clark, you almost want to see their birth certificates. They’re really strong kids.”
Clayton finished with a team-high 14 points and eight total rebounds. Clark added six points and six total rebounds of his own, but was particularly effective on the defensive side of the ball with four blocks and a steal.
Xavier forward Travis Taylor was the only player to record a double-double on Wednesday with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The senior led his team in points, rebounds (total, offensive and defensive), and steals.
Freshman guard Semaj Christon gave the 49ers a lot of trouble with his athleticism and scoring ability. Christon racked up 18 points as well, but turned the ball over five times. Despite reluctantly tight defense from Charlotte guards Pierria Henry and Mayfield, Christon often used his quickness to get into the lane for easy baskets.
Taylor and Christon scored well over half of Xaviers points (36 of 57). Justin Martin had the next highest total with seven.
Charlotte guard Denzel Ingram played a solid all-around game. The freshman scored 12 points including a couple key three-pointers in the first half.
“I just wanted to give my team a spark. The ball felt good today so I just let it go,” Ingram said after the game.
Ingram’s defensive impact on the game may have been more significant than his offensive impact. He was matched up against Xavier guard Brad Redford, a sharp-shooter and three-point specialist, throughout the game. Ingram chased and bothered Redford all night, only allowing the senior to get off three total shots.
Ingram also played a role at a key turning point in the game when he chased down a Xavier player who was running on a seemingly uncontested fast break. Ingram smacked the ball out of the Musketeer’s hands as he rose for a lay-up.
Senior forward Chris Braswell was the final double-digit scorer for Charlotte with 12 points, although he only played 21 minutes.
Despite stellar performances from their forwards, Charlotte was uncharacteristically out-played in the post. The Musketeers held advantages in rebounds (44-33), points in the paint (36-26) and second chance points (14-7).
Both teams experienced miserable nights at the charity stripe. Xavier attempted nine total free throws and only managed to connect on four (44.4%). Charlotte got to the line 29 times, but only made 14 (48.3%).
With the win Charlotte is forced into a three-way tie for second place in the A-10 standings, along with Butler and Xavier. Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) stands alone at the top with no conference losses to date.
The 49ers will look to either hold or improve their conference standing when they take on George Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Washington D.C.
Xavier will have similar motives in mind on Saturday when they travel to Saint Joseph’s for a 6 p.m. tip-off against the Hawks in Philadelphia.