CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It almost defied explanation. Almost.
If you happened upon Saturday’s Oklahoma State-Charlotte game at the second media break of the second half, you would have seen a 52-30 lead for the Cowboys. ESPN’s predictor said that, at that point in the game, Oklahoma State had a 99.99 percent probability of winning the game.
If that score led you to watch another game, go do some lawn work, or fall asleep, you had to figure you would have time to tune back in and see the home side celebrating, as green and white confetti dropped from the ceiling.
The Charlotte defense held Oklahoma State without a field goal for the final 7:36, and star guard Jon Davis stuck a pull-up jumper from just outside the arc with .6 seconds remaining, capping a 66-64 49er victory in front of 3,895 incredulous fans at Halton Arena.
How do you quantify .01 percent, exactly? Davis had a possible answer.
“In the first game on Tuesday (an 80-69 home loss to Chattanooga), when we got down, we kinda like, dropped our heads, and the body language changed. We stopped defending. We started trying to catch up with scoring, rather than defense,” said Davis. “We got better this week, and we got the message. We understand that we need to be a defensive-minded team in order to be competitive, in order to win games, in order to have a game like this and give ourselves a chance to win.”
It would have been understood if the first 28 minutes of the game created more questions than answers.
At that fateful second media stoppage, Oklahoma State (0-1) had made 18-of-33 shots. 10-of-17 three-pointers – seven of the first eight – had found the net. Charlotte (1-1) was shooting just 35.5 percent (11-of-31).
The Cowboy advantage was still 17 when Isaac Likekele converted a layup at the 7:36 mark.
Then, it happened.
The margin gradually dwindled. 54-37 at the next stoppage. Then, 56-47. 56-48. 56-50. 56-56.
Lindy Waters III drained two free throws for Oklahoma State with 50 seconds remaining, bringing to a close what seemed to be a completely improbable 17-0 49er run and putting his club back ahead, 58-56. Two Cameron McGriff makes from the stripe moved the lead back to four.
Dravon Mangum was then fouled on a three-point attempt for Charlotte, and the freshman drained all three free throws to slice the margin back to one point. After four more McGriff free throws sandwiched two makes by Charlotte’s Milos Supica, the Cowboys led, 64-61, with seven seconds to play. The swish of the net on the final free throw left Charlotte without a timeout, looking to rush up the floor and tie the game.
Those final seven seconds could arguably take seven minutes to recap.
As Davis raced up the floor, Waters fouled the senior star some 40 feet from the basket. It was argued that Davis was fouled while he was in the act of shooting. After a trip to the monitor, however, it was determined that Waters’ foul was intentional. The whistle gave Davis two free throws, which he sank, and allowed Charlotte to keep the ball and set up one final look.
Charlotte’s Cooper Robb triggered the ball inbounds on the ensuing play, finding a cutting Davis flashing in front of another 49er. Davis turned back toward the key and quickly broke down Waters off the dribble, then banked in the decisive make off the backboard.
“We were running a play, and we had (run) it a couple of times throughout the game,” said Davis. “I cut my cut kind of short, and I just wanted to get a shot up on the rim and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Did Davis consider – even for a second – that the shot may not fall?
“No. Even if there was (any doubt), I wouldn’t tell you,” said Davis to considerable laughter. “I honestly believe every shot that I take is going in. That’s just how I am.”
“He said he wanted to win it,” added Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez. “I said, ‘If you wanna go win it, go win it.’ To his credit, he won it.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton seemed to recognize the opportunities ahead for his young club.
“I thought they (Sanchez and staff) did a phenomenal job of just keeping their team positive. We played really, really well on both ends of the floor – minus a few turnovers – in the first half. That shows that he’s really getting his message across about the grit, playing for 40 minutes and not giving up,” said Boynton. “Obviously, we’re disappointed in the loss, but all the credit goes to them. They made the plays, and to the victor go the spoils.”
The victory marked the first in Sanchez’ career, and it earned him a gift from Davis.
“Jon was really kind,” said Sanchez. “He hit a big shot, and when I got in the locker room, he presented me with a game ball. How awesome is that?”
“I’m really thankful for it (the victory),” added Sanchez.
Four Cowboys scored in double figures, led by McGriff’s 17. Eight of those points for McGriff came from the line, without a miss. Guards Waters and Thomas Dziagwa added 15 apiece, with Likelele tallying 13.
Davis led Charlotte and all scorers, pouring in 27. Malik Martin scored 13 to notch his second-straight double-figure outing, with Mangum contributing 12.
Oklahoma State returns home to face UTSA Wednesday evening. That game is slated for a 7:00 (Central) start. Charlotte will resume play Friday night, with a home contest against CAA foe James Madison. That game will tip off at 7:30.
CHARLOTTE 66, OKLAHOMA STATE 64
OKLAHOMA STATE (0-1): McGriff 4-10 8-8 17, Dziagwa 5-11 0-0 15, Likekele 5-8 2-4 13, Anei 1-2 0-2 2, Waters III 4-11 4-4 15, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Calloo 1-4 0-0 2, Demuth 0-2 0-0 0, Major 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 14-18 64.
CHARLOTTE (1-1): Mangum 1-2 9-10 12, Haslem 1-1 0-0 2, Davis 9-17 6-6 27, Robb 2-5 1-2 6, Martin 5-11 1-1 13, McGill 0-4 0-0 0, Supica 2-5 2-2 6, Younger 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-46 19-21 66.
Halftime — Oklahoma State 37-19. 3-Point Goals—Oklahoma State 10-23 (McGriff 1-2, Dziagwa 5-10, Likekele 1-2, Waters III 3-6, Calloo 0-1, Demuth 0-1, Major 0-1), Charlotte 7-16 (Mangum 1-2, Davis 3-6, Robb 1-3, Martin 2-4, McGill 0-1). Fouled Out — Likekele (OKST), Mangum (CHA). Rebounds — Charlotte 34 (Supica 12), Oklahoma State 26 (McGriff 6). Assists — Oklahoma State 11 (Likekele 4), Charlotte 8 (Davis 3). Total Fouls — Charlotte 19, Oklahoma State 17. Technical — NA. A — 3895.
Points in the Paint —NA. Points off Turnovers —Oklahoma State 24, Charlotte 16. Second-Chance Points — Charlotte 7, Oklahoma State 4. Fast Break Points — NA. Bench Points — Charlotte 6, Oklahoma State 2.