CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez didn’t have the most glowing of words for the Hornets’ Nest trophy, given annually to the winner of the game between Charlotte and Davidson.
“I don’t even know what the thing looks like. I saw it and walked the other way,” said Sanchez. “I don’t think I’ve seen an uglier thing in my life.”
Then, he covered the most important part.
“I’m glad it’s in this building for the next 12 months.”
Charlotte placed three players in double figures and shot 50 percent for the game Tuesday night, holding off Davidson, 71-58, to win the Battle for the Hornets’ Nest for the first time since 2012.
Even still, Sanchez was hesitant to place too much weight on the victory.
“One game, for us, is important,” said Sanchez. “We need to see the fruits of our labors … Overall, for the program, it’s one game. It’s nice to be .500 right now.”
Charlotte (1-1) led for all but 40 seconds of the first half, racing out to a lead that ballooned as high as 19. The Niners sank half of their 30 first-half attempts, including 3-of-8 from distance. The home side enjoyed a 19-12 rebounding advantage, and committed just three turnovers.
Of perhaps equal importance, however, was the performance of the Charlotte defense. The Niners clamped down on the Wildcats for much of the opening stanza, limiting Davidson to just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc and allowing the visitors just two attempts from the free throw line. Davidson connected on 10 of its 24 attempts in the opening twenty, heavily buoyed by a late run in which the Wildcats converted 5-of-7 tries.
“Overall, I was really pleased with our defensive intent to guard, and to be in a stance,” said Sanchez. “This was definitely a challenge for us. I know that they were a little short-handed, and I hope they get those guys back soon. I know they’re very important to them. That does not take away from our overall desire to really engage on the defensive end of the floor.”
“Right from the opening tap, their aggressive defense put us on our heels,” added Davidson coach Bob McKillop. “They were so efficient in running their offense, and kept us on our heels. I thought that was a consistent aspect of the game.”
Davidson (0-2) saw its margin rise as high as 24 in the second half, before an intense Wildcat run knifed the 49er advantage to single digits. The 18-7 Davidson burst led to a timeout following a Mike Jones triple, which prompted Sanchez to preach patience to his still-young club during the stoppage.
“I told them to stay calm and to keep learning and growing, and not to panic,” said Sanchez. “That’s a human emotion in those moments, as you deal with a little adversity. For us as a group, we have to learn from that … That’s how we grow. We share experiences.”
The message clearly reached the 49er players, as the home side staved off the Davidson run and never allowed the Wildcats to creep closer than that nine-point difference. Charlotte knocked down 5-of-6 free throws in the final 1:27, allowing the Niners to take home the victory over their rival.
“I thought our guys fought back in the second half, but just did not have enough gas in the tank to weather ourselves coming back from a 24-point deficit,” said McKillop. “But we did fight back.”
Charlotte was paced by graduate transfer guard Drew Edwards, who tallied 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Edwards also finished one rebound shy of a double-double. Guard Jordan Shepherd and forward Milos Supica added 12 apiece, with Supica tallying a double-double by snaring 10 boards.
Davidson was led by guard Kellan Grady, who finished with 20 on a 9-of-17 effort from the floor. Jon-Axel Gudmunsson contributed 11 points and eight rebounds, while guard Luke Frampton totaled 10.
Charlotte returns to action Sunday night in a home contest against Wake Forest, in a 6:00 start that will be televised over ESPNU. Davidson returns to action Saturday night, hosting UNC Wilmington. That game is slated for a 7:00 tip, and will be streamed on ESPN+.