CHARLOTTE – Charlotte came into Sunday needing just one win to break its school record for home wins in a regular season, lined up against an FIU team it defeated by 26 on January 25.
Unfortunately, there was no celebration to be had on the 49ers’ home deck.
Osasumwen Osaghae recorded a double-double, leading three FIU double-digit scorers in a dominant second-half effort to put away Charlotte, 67-52, in front of an announced crowd of 3,116 in Halton Arena.
“We didn’t play really well today,” Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez observed. “We can handle the scoring droughts, and things like that, but I think we took our foot off (the gas) on the non-obvious things … I don’t know if we lost our rhythm, or what, but we looked a little disjointed today.”
The first half was a back-and-forth battle that saw both sides require a bit to get untracked. The visiting Panthers broke the seal with an Osaghae bucket on its first possession. Charlotte (9-7, 15-12) did not hit the scoreboard until two Jahmir Young free throws at the 16:25 mark. Those free throws kickstarted a 7-0 49er run, which gave the home side the biggest advantage either side enjoyed in the stanza.
Osaghae finished the first period just two points and two boards shy of a double-double, adding two blocked shots to an impressive first-half total for the FIU senior. Antonio Daye added 12 in the period for the Panthers, who took a 32-30 lead to the interval following a Trejon Jacob triple with 23 seconds to play in the half.
FIU (9-7, 18-11) charged out of the tunnel to start the second 20, unleashing a 12-2 burst that put the visitors ahead by a dozen. Osaghae and Jacob scored all 12 for the Panthers, knocking down 5-of-5 from the field in the opening segment. The Panthers extended the run to 21-3, as the 49ers hit just one of their first 12 shots in the period. FIU, conversely, went 10-for-17 in the opening 10 minutes of the second.
“They deny, they disrupt your offense. They switch everything, so passes aren’t as easy to make,” said Sanchez of the Panthers. “They made shots. They defended well, and they guarded, and that combination usually results in (what happened).”
A Blake Furcron triple at the 9:43 mark provided the Panthers their biggest margin of the contest, extending the lead to 21. Charlotte continued to chip away at the margin, snipping the lead as low as 13 on a Drew Edwards transition bucket late in the game. The 49ers could draw no closer, however.
“We’re very fortunate to be in the position that we’re in, playing for something. You have to embrace that,” Sanchez said. “You genuinely have to chase after it with tremendous perseverance. It’s not going to be gifted to you.
“Today was a perfect example. Bad habits don’t need to be practiced. Good habits need to be emphasized, and taught, and (you need to) be intentional about them every single day. Bad habits don’t need sowing. Good habits do.”
Osaghae notched 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 29 minutes of play. The senior Miami native also turned away four Charlotte shots on defense.
“He’s such a talent. He’s long,” Sanchez noted of Osaghae. “They did a good job of using him in ball screens, and our rotations weren’t as sharp as they have been. He did hurt us. He did a really good job. We didn’t match his intensity today.”
Antonio Daye tallied 14 for the Panthers on a 6-for-10 effort from the floor. Jacob knocked down 5-of-10, adding 13.
Jahmir Young scored 14 for Charlotte, despite connecting on just 4-of-11 from the field in 33 minutes. Jordan Shepherd contributed 11.
FIU shot 48.3 percent from the field (29-for-60), including a solid 15-for-29 performance in the closing 20. Charlotte was unable to shake its struggles early in the second half, closing just 6-for-26 on the way to a 35.3 percent (18-for-51) performance. The 49ers connected on just two of 16 from distance.
Charlotte concludes the home portion of its regular season Wednesday in Halton Arena, hosting North Texas. That game is slated to tip at 7:00 (Eastern) and will be streamed on the CBS Sports Network Facebook page. FIU has just one league contest remaining, that against Western Kentucky at home next Saturday. Tip time from the Ocean Bank Convocation Center is scheduled for 7:00, and that game will also stream on CBSSN’s Facebook page.