For the second year in a row, the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team is looking to bring home another tournament championship title.
In the 2012 campaign, the 49ers defeated Northeastern in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout for the title. This year, the team is looking to bring home another championship title, but from the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The location has changed, but the goal remains the same: win.
In the first game of the Tip-Off, the 49ers defeated Kansas State 68-61. The game had Niner Nation worried towards the end when Mike Thorne Jr. and Willie Clayton both fouled out, but the young Charlotte team fought until the buzzer to grab a win.
“Charlotte played a good, well-rounded game; mixed their defenses, pounded the boards, got to the free throw line,” said Kansas State Head Coach Bruce Weber.
“They didn’t make many threes, but when they made them, they were big ones, kind of daggers.”
In the second game of the tournament, the 49ers faced Northeastern. The first half of the game appeared to be the Ben Cherry show, as he went 6-7 from deep for a career-high 18 points. Prior to the game against the Huskies, Cherry was 1-11 from three-point range. The 49ers picked up an 86-77 win over Northeastern to earn a spot in the tournament championship game.
“I’ve been watching my teammates shoot it well during the beginning of the season, so I’ve been trying to rub their hands trying to get some of that magic, just a little bit,” said Cherry after the win over the Huskies.
“I just wanted one to fall. Definitely seeing them knock down shots, it’s like, ‘Okay, it can happen. It should happen.’ It was definitely nice to have a few go in today.”
For Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major, seeing his team rally together and play as a unit has been essential to their success thus far in the tournament.
“Hopefully we can continue the team effort trend, it makes us harder to prepare for,” said Major.
“It’s not one or two guys that people have to put on a scouting report, put a circle around.”
The 49ers face No. 14 Michigan in the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m. Michigan found their way into the final round of the tournament after defeating Long Beach State 85-61 in the first round and Florida State 82-80 during an overtime battle in the second round.
The only time that Charlotte and Michigan have met in program history was in the Elite Eight of the 1977 NCAA Tournament. The 49ers won 75-68 to advance and make the program’s only Final Four appearance. That year, Charlotte received an at-large bid into the tournament while Michigan was the No. 1 team.
Fans can catch the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship game on ESPN2.