CHARLOTTE – Ron Sanchez has said many times that his Charlotte tenure would be a journey. Some journeys consist of one step up and two steps back.
Charlotte led or was tied with Georgia State for nearly 28 minutes Friday night, but the final four minutes did in the 49ers. The visiting Panthers put away the 49ers, 76-65, in Halton Arena.
“I think that we played really well in the first half, from an offensive and defensive standpoint,” commented Sanchez after the game. “We did not do the job in the second half on transition. Against a team like that, there’s no way you can succeed if you’re giving up that many points.”
The sides duked out a physical and active opening twenty. Charlotte (0-2) seized the only lead either side enjoyed over the first 17 minutes greater than a possession at the 12:48 mark, as an Anzac Rissetto bucket afforded the 49ers a 14-10 advantage. Georgia State (3-1) countered with a 5-0 burst off a Corey Allen triple and two Jojo Toppin free throws, compiling one of the eight lead changes recorded in the first half.
The struggle for separation continued until a 7-0 Charlotte run flipped a one-point Panther margin into a 32-26 Niner lead with 2:27 remaining. Georgia State continued to shave the deficit thinner but could draw no closer than a bucket. Charlotte left the floor at the interval ahead, 36-32.
The second stanza opened as the first closed, with neither side able to pull away from the other. Corey Allen drew the game level at 55 with a Georgia State triple with 7:11 to play, then Jhery Matos countered at the other end to put Charlotte ahead, 57-55, with 6:34 remaining.
The 49ers would not connect on another field goal for the rest of the contest.
Charlotte’s final lead came after two Jordan Shepherd free throws with 5:34 to play. From there, Georgia State tore off a 10-0 run, putting the Panthers ahead, 68-59, and largely putting away the contest.
“We just had like a mental lapse down the stretch, and I think that’s what cost us the game, to be honest,” stated Charlotte guard Jahmir Young. “We can definitely learn and grow from this. Down the stretch, we have to be mentally better.”
The Panther run largely cemented the result due to the 49ers’ second-half shooting woes. Charlotte connected on just 26.1 percent (6-for-23) from the field in the final period, with just three players (Young, Brice Williams, and Jhery Matos) connecting on field-goal tries.
Sanchez found positives in the growth, and in the fact that his team will play again Monday against South Carolina State. “I think we handled some adversity in the second half in a really solid way,” said Sanchez. “Overall, I think there were a lot of positives, from some individual play to overall team play.”
Young led all Charlotte scorers with 20 points, connecting on 6-of-14 tries from the field. Shepherd tallied 15, with Williams adding 10.
Kane Williams paced all scorers and three double-digit Panther finishers, closing with 21 points. Jojo Toppin poured in 16, with Corey Allen totaling 14. Georgia State shot 40 percent (24-for-60) from the field.
Charlotte returns to action Monday night at home, hosting South Carolina State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). Game time is set for 6:00 in Halton Arena. Georgia State is off until December 16, when it welcomes Mercer of the Southern Conference. That contest is also slated to tip at 6:00.