CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte coach Mark Price remarked to local media this week that his team was not scoring as well as he expected, and that his 49ers needed to correct that. A five-point halftime deficit to Big South Conference opponent Presbyterian couldn’t have helped the 49ers’ leader’s comfort level.
Price’s club responded in a big way in the second half, however, knocking down 17-of-26 second-half shots (65.4 percent) and holding off the persistent Blue Hose, 83-74, in front of 3,260 fans in Halton Arena Monday night.
“It was a good win for us tonight, to come back in the second half,” said Price after the game. “Give Presbyterian a lot of credit. They’re a hard-playing team, and we knew that.”
Montenia Nelson got the visitors on the board first by dropping a trey, and the teams traded leads through much of the first half. Charlotte (2-2) enjoyed several leads of six points through the period, but could never move the needle any further. One of those six-point leads gave the 49ers a 33-27 advantage following an Austin Ajukwa put-back at the 5:49 mark of the half. The Blue Hose put the clamps on the Charlotte offense from there, though, closing the half on an 11-0 burst that saw the 49ers miss their final nine shots from the field. Presbyterian (1-4) connected on 12-of-24 first-half tries (50 percent), versus Charlotte’s 13-for-29 (44.8 percent). Both clubs drained five of 12 tries from distance (41.7 percent).
Buckets by Reggie Dillard and Armel Tete continued the run for the Blue Hose, giving the visitors their biggest lead of the night at 10 points, before a Ryan Murphy baseline jumper at the 18:40 mark provided the 49ers’ first bucket in seven-plus minutes of game action. The Blue Hose continued to hold the lead until an Austin Ajukwa trey splashed home with 12-and-a-half minutes to play, giving the 49ers a two-point advantage. The 49ers again struggled to create separation, though, as the sides continued to trade punches. Charlotte spent over eight minutes with the lead, though it could never push the margin past six.
A pair of free throws finally moved the lead to eight just after the last media break, with a Davon Bell layup again pulling his club within six. After the back-and-forth heavyweight battle that lasted through the first 37 minutes, the home side finally landed the right-left combination that staggered the Blue Hose. An Andrien White three with 2:55 to play returned the lead to nine, with a Milos Supica layup 40 seconds later put the contest out of reach.
“I thought we just played within our offense much better in the second half,” opined Price. “(We) just moved the ball, found the right spots, and kept it moving. We were also able to push the ball, which, we’re at our best when we can get the ball up and down the floor.”
Bell’s career-high 27 led the Blue Hose and all scorers. The redshirt junior – and Charlotte native – finished 9-for-15 from the floor, hitting 4-of-5 three-point attempts. Redshirt senior Reggie Dillard added 18, with junior forward Francois Lewis tallying 11. Presbyterian shot 48.1 percent (25-for-52) from the floor, with 10-of-23 three-point tries finding their mark.
Davis led the 49ers with 24 points, knocking down 8-of-15 tries from the floor (1-for-3 from distance). Ajukwa, Supica and Murphy all added 11 apiece. Charlotte shot 54.5 percent (30-for-55) on the night, largely buoyed by its fiery second-half effort. 10 of Charlotte’s 21 three-pointers connected.
“In the games against Charleston and Oklahoma State, they gave me kind of like a snapshot of how I’m going to be played the vast majority of the season,” said Davis after the game, referencing a conversation he had with Price earlier in the week. “He (Price) said I just need to attack the pressure and make the right plays, instead of trying to attack the pressure and score.”
Presbyterian will now travel to Baltimore, Maryland, to take part in two games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The Blue Hose will play Nicholls Thursday afternoon at 2:00 (Eastern), with a Friday contest looming against either Maryland-Baltimore County or Chicago State. Charlotte will face another Big South foe Friday evening when High Point visits Halton Arena. That game is scheduled for a 7:00 start.
CHARLOTTE 83, PRESBYTERIAN 74
PRESBYTERIAN (1-4): Tete 1-3 0-1 2, Withers 2-3 0-0 4, Nelson 2-2 0-0 6, Bell 9-15 5-5 27, Dillard 5-12 5-8 18, Crouch 1-3 0-0 2, Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 4-8 2-2 11, Arroyo 0-1 0-0 0, Younger 1-4 2-2 4. Totals 25-52 14-18 74.
CHARLOTE (2-2): Haslem 2-3 0-1 4, White 2-5 0-0 5, Davis 8-15 7-11 24, Price 1-2 0-0 3, Vasic 1-4 0-1 2, Garvin 3-5 3-4 9, Ajukwa 4-6 0-0 11, McGill 1-4 0-0 3, Supica 4-4 3-6 11, Murphy 4-7 0-0 11. Totals 37-66 13-20 106.
Halftime — Presbyterian 38-33. 3-Point Goals—Presbyterian 10-23 (Nelson 2-3, Bell 4-5, Dillard 3-8, Lewis 1-4, Younger 0-3), Charlotte 10-21 (White 1-4, Davis 1-3, Price 1-1, Vasic 0-1, Ajukwa 3-4, McGill 1-3, Murphy 3-5). Fouled Out — Withers (PC). Rebounds — Charlotte 36 (Haslem 7), Presbyterian 25 (Dillard 7). Assists — Charlotte 17 (Davis 7), Presbyterian 9 (Bell 4). Total Fouls — Presbyterian 22, Charlotte 17. Technical — White (CHA). A — 3260.
Points in the Paint —Charlotte 36, Presbyterian 24. Points off Turnovers —Charlotte 17, Presbyterian 10. Second-Chance Points — Charlotte 14, Presbyterian 2. Fast Break Points — Charlotte 6, Presbyterian 5. Bench Points — Charlotte 45, Presbyterian 17.