CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Following a tough, overtime loss Wednesday at Georgia State, a holiday, and a festive day on which the 49er football team won its seventh game, it would be easy to excuse a letdown from Charlotte.
No excuses would be required.
The 49ers made an early statement on offense and locked down the defensive end of the floor, turning in a dominant, 83-47 victory over USC Upstate before an announced crowd of 2,593 at Halton Arena.
“I think we executed our plan well today,” said Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez. “We seemed organized, and their (defensive) pressure and things didn’t disorganize us. I’m definitely pleased with the outcome of the game today.”
Everette Hammond knocked down the first bucket of the contest 31 seconds in, giving Upstate a 2-0 lead. That would be the only lead the Spartans would enjoy all day.
Charlotte (3-3) quickly answered with an 11-0 run and asserted itself, later going on to knock down 13 of its first 17 attempts from the field. Guard Malik Martin paced the Niner offense for much of the period, drilling all four of his tries (three from distance) in tallying 14 first-half points. Guard Jordan Shepherd also turned in a perfect first-half effort on four tries, as Charlotte shot 68.2 percent (15-for-22) en route to a 41-21 lead at the interval.
“(If) you see one go in, you know (that if) another one comes your way, just let it go,” said Martin. “I was definitely feeling it a little bit.”
The Niners missed their first three second-half attempts, but proceeded to hit their next five and go on a 12-2 run that extended the lead to 31. USC Upstate (1-7) got a jumper from Bryson Mozone and a Hammond free throw to reduce the advantage to 28, but could draw no closer. Charlotte constricted the Spartan offensive attack, limiting the visitors to 33.9 percent (19-for-56) from the floor, and just 20.8 percent (5-for-24) from three. Upstate went to the line just nine times, hitting four.
Charlotte rode its first-half performance to a solid finish from the floor, draining 56.9 percent (29-for-51) of its shots. 11 49er threes found the net, along with 14-of-18 free throws.
Five 49ers finished in double figures, led by Martin’s 16. Jahmir Young and Shepherd contributed 12 apiece, with Drew Edwards and Cooper Robb adding 11.
“That would be great (to see this many double-figure scorers),” said Sanchez. “For us to grow as a group, I think that we have to continue to rely on one another. They share the ball well. It’s an unselfish group, to begin with.”
Charlotte remains at home and will face another Big South foe Tuesday evening, as UNC Asheville takes the deck at Halton Arena. That game is slated to tip at 7:00 (Eastern). USC Upstate will also return home for a Tuesday tilt, as the Spartans face off with Eastern Kentucky of the Ohio Valley Conference at the Hodge Center in Spartanburg, S.C. That game will commence at 6:00.