The Charlotte 49ers (11-11, 5-6 C-USA) used a career-high 30 points and 11 rebounds from Austin Ajukwa to defeat the Florida International Golden Panthers 95-80 inside Halton Arena Saturday night. Charlotte also had three other players score in double digits, including Jon Davis (26), Braxton Ogbueze (17) and Andrien White.
“Good bounce back win for us tonight after a tough disappointing two-point loss on Thursday,” head coach Mark Price said. “It’s always a challenge with a young team to be able to overcome disappointments but we just talked about getting better every time we step on the court that’s got to be our goal. We didn’t have as many breakdowns tonight that was a goal. Doing the little things that has been kind of a theme for the last couple of days, we have to get better at doing the little things and I thought overall we did that. We won the rebounding battle tonight. I really thought all of our guys fought hard on the glass all night long and that was a big reason why we were able to win.”
Ogbueze earned Charlotte’s first lead of the game five minutes in with a triple from the corner, giving the 49ers a 13-8 advantage. With the score tied up at 22 with just over eight minutes remaining in the half, Ajukwa and the Niners went on a 9-0 run to increase their lead, up 31-22.
After a three from White with 1:54 left on the clock, Charlotte increased their lead to 11, 39-28. After a couple made buckets for each team, Charlotte led 43-33 going into the half.
Coming out of the break, Davis, Ajukwa and Ogbueze caught fire, extending Charlotte’s lead to 13, 48-53. But as we have seen before, the 49ers let off the gas and FIU started their comeback behind 27 points from Donte McGill. After a made jumper from Anthony Boswell at the 13:35 mark, FIU cut the lead to one, 52-53.
But as soon as the Golden Panthers started to quiet the home crowd in Charlotte, the three-headed monster of Ogbueze, Davis and Ajukwa poured it on FIU, going up by 12 with 8:52 remaining.
With their double-digit lead, Charlotte kept their foot on the pedal this time, getting to the free throw line at will and finishing the game 15-of-16 from the line in the second half.
When it was all said and done, the Niners notched 11 threes and shot 94.1 percent from the charity stripe, while also shooting 60 percent from the field. The 49ers out-rebounded FIU 30-27, winning the rebounding battle for just the third time all season long.
Charlotte will begin their three-game road trip at UAB Thursday night at 8 p.m.