In a game that not many expected a team like Charlotte to be playing in, the 49ers men’s basketball team (5-1) upset the No. 14 ranked Michigan 63-61 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship game and have raised the bar for the upcoming season.
After pulling out a 68-61 first-round win over Kansas State, the 49ers were able to garner one more win when they rallied past Northeastern by a score of 86-77 in the semifinals of the tournament.
Michigan, the runner-up in last season’s NCAA Tournament, nearly missed their opportunity to play in the championship of the Tip-Off after squeezing by Florida State in overtime.
With both teams hungry for a championship title, the game proved nothing short of hard-fought.
At the half, Charlotte led 35-30 leaving Niner Nation with visions of a 1977 repeat.
It was in 1977 that the 49ers upset Michigan, the No. 1 ranked team at the time, in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament to advance and make the program’s only Final Four appearance.
The game came down to the last minute. With 40 seconds on the clock, Charlotte held a five point lead. After blowing the lead, Michigan’s Mitch McGary tied it 61-61 with just eight seconds left.
Charlotte’s Terrence Williams missed a layup, but snagged his own rebound to make his second attempt giving the 49ers a 63-61 victory over the 14th-ranked team and a championship title for the second-straight year.
“You almost don’t know what to say after that one. That was one of the most incredible basketball games I’ve ever been a part of. I just can’t say enough about these kids,” said Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major.
Denzel Ingram led the 49ers with 12 points and four rebounds. Pierria Henry finished the night with 11 points, six rebounds and a steal. It was Willie Clayton that recorded the only double-double of the night with his 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The tournament, as a whole, truly epitomized what playing like a team looks like for the young Charlotte team.
“The thing that’s been the most fun and encouraging for me to watch is just them coming together down here and being a team,” said Major.
“It’s the hardest thing to do in sports these days, to legitimately root for the next guy on your team and not care what happens to you. They’re really trying to be a team, so I’m just really thankful to God for them.”
The team returns home to Halton Arena on Sunday, Dec. 1 when they host UNC Asheville at 6 p.m.