CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There won’t be a gilded frame around the box score. The highlights won’t play on a loop.
For Charlotte, though, the result might as well be a Picasso.
In a game that was a defensive slog from open to close, Charlotte’s defense again rose to the occasion late, taking home a 42-39 victory over Longwood of the Big South Conference before an announced crowd of 3,740 at Halton Arena Monday.
“I think today, we may have learned how to close a game, which is really important,” said Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez of his team’s continued evolution. “We didn’t do it perfectly, but we’ll watch the film, and we’ll study, and we’ll learn from this one, as well.”
Longwood (4-1) hit the board first nearly two minutes in, on the strength of a jumper from Shabooty Phillips. The teams struggled to crack the opposing defenses for much of the first half, with Longwood the first side to break into double digits. A Damarion Geter bucket put the Lancers up, 11-7, with 11:45 to play in the half. Charlotte (2-2) could draw no closer than a four-point deficit for the remainder of the half, with the visitors enjoying a 19-15 advantage at the interval.
“I think we passed up a lot of good looks in the first half today,” said Sanchez of his team’s first-half performance.
The Lancers surged out on a 7-0 burst out of the locker room, extending their lead to 26-15 and drawing a timeout from a visibly perturbed Sanchez. As has seemingly been the modus operandi for Charlotte this season, the 49ers used a suffocating defense to draw themselves back into the game. The Lancers went on a stretch of 8:03 without a basket – 5:53 without scoring at all – as the home side slowly worked its way out of an 11-point deficit, tallying point after torturous point.
A Malik Martin triple at the 10:27 mark finally gave Charlotte its first second-half lead, to the delight of the home crowd. JaShaun Smith countered with a trey of his own on the ensuing possession, before Martin answered with another three. The Charlotte advantage finally stretched to eight at 41-33, before a crazy final five minutes unfolded.
Neither side scored for nearly two minutes, before a Jordan Cintron free throw cut the 49er lead to seven. A Phillips three a minute and a half later sliced the 49er lead to four. Isiah Walton then stole a pass at center court with 39 seconds to play, taking the ball to the rack and halving the perilously-thin margin.
Charlotte star Jon Davis, who had largely been held in check all night, held the ball for much of the ensuing possession before lining up a jumper that missed the mark. Walton hauled in the rebound, but the Lancers called a timeout they did not have available, resulting in their being assessed a technical foul.
Davis hit that free throw, and Walton’s three-point attempt on the ensuing possession would not fall. The Lancers then fouled Davis, and, despite his free throw not finding the mark, Longwood was unable to get a look at the basket that would potentially tie the game.
Both defenses drew rave reviews from their respective coaches.
“Defensively, I thought our team played with great effort and poise for most of the game,” said Longwood coach Griff Aldrich. “(I was) really pleased with our defensive game plan and effort.”
Sanchez echoed those sentiments.
“(Aldrich) did a phenomenal job adjusting to some things, and really challenging us in the first half, so that we had a hard time scoring. That’s a credit to their defense,” said Sanchez.
Aldrich also had kind words for Charlotte’s defense.
“It gave us fits, for sure,” said Aldrich of Charlotte’s attacking defensive style. “We knew that they were gonna hard-hedge on the ball screens, and to be honest, we didn’t react well.”
POSTGAME AUDIO: Longwood coach Griff Aldrich
Longwood placed two scorers in double figures, with Walton’s 12 pacing the Lancers. Walton tallied a double-double, adding 10 boards. Phillips added 10 points and eight rebounds of his own. Longwood shot 35.6 percent (16-for-45) on the game, making just 4-of-19 tries (21.1 percent) from three-point range.
Charlotte could muster just 11 conversions on 42 tries (26.2 percent), with just 18.8 percent (3-for-16) of the 49ers’ first-half tries finding the mark. Charlotte did not connect on a field goal in the final 5:03 of game time, scoring a lone point on Davis’ free throw following the technical foul. Martin was Charlotte’s lone double-digit scorer, totaling 17 points. Fellow freshman Dravon Mangum fell just one point shy of a double-double of his own, snagging 10 rebounds to go with his nine points.
Both teams will take a brief break for the Thanksgiving holiday. Longwood returns to action Friday against Fairfield in the University of Seattle Tournament. That game is scheduled for a 6:00 (Eastern) tip. Charlotte resumes play Tuesday, November 27, at Davidson. That contest is slated to begin at 7:00 from Belk Arena.
CHARLOTTE 42, LONGWOOD 39
LONGWOOD (4-1): Adgei 0-2 0-0 0, Cintron 1-3 1-2 3, Smith 2-5 1-2 6, Walton 5-17 1-1 12, Phillips 4-11 0-0 10, Chapman 0-1 0-0 0, Flood 0-1 0-0 0, Franklin 1-1 0-0 2, Geter 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 16-45 3-5 39.
CHARLOTTE (2-2): Mangum 3-9 2-2 9, Haslem 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 1-5 4-6 7, Robb 2-11 0-0 5, Martin 4-9 7-8 17, McGill 0-0 0-0 0, Supica 0-2 1-2 1, Kitoko 0-2 0-0 0, Younger 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 11-42 14-19 42.
Halftime — Longwood 19-15. 3-Point Goals—Longwood 4-19 (Cintron 0-2, Smith 1-3, Walton 1-7, Phillips 2-5, Chapman 0-1, Flood 0-1), Charlotte 6-22 (Mangum 1-3, Davis 1-3, Robb 1-6, Martin 2-5, Kitoko 0-2, Younger 1-3). Fouled Out — Robb (CHA). Rebounds — Longwood 33 (Walton 10), Charlotte 30 (Mangum 10)). Assists — Charlotte 8 (Davis 4), Longwood 6 (Walton/Phillips/Flood 2). Total Fouls — Longwood 16, Charlotte 12. Technical — Walton (Longwood). A — 3740.
Points in the Paint —Longwood 22, Charlotte 8. Points off Turnovers —Longwood 11, Charlotte 8. Second-Chance Points — Charlotte 6, Longwood 3. Fast Break Points — Longwood 6, Charlotte 0. Bench Points–-Longwood 8, Charlotte 4.