The Charlotte 49ers (12-14, 6-9 C-USA) came out victorious against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (13-15, 7-8 C-USA) 83-77 in Hlaton Arena Thursday night.
“This was a really good win for us,” Charlotte coach Mark Price said. “I thought for the most part, we played 40 minutes of solid basketball, [WKU] made a run in the second half, tied the game and even took the lead momentarily. We’ve been talking as a team about being more resilient when that stuff happens. I didn’t see any heads drop or any eyes glaze over, I saw a determined group go out there and get a win tonight. So, I was really proud of them.”
Jon Davis put up 23 points and 18 in the second half when the Niners needed it the most to finish out the game. The Niners had four players who scored in double figures including Braxton Ogbueze who put up 16, Austin Ajukwa with 15 and Adrien White with 10.
With five rebounding contributions from Reid Aube, Najee Garvin and Ajukwa, the Niners out-rebounded WKU 35-34. Charlotte also proved to be strong on the defensive end, converting 15 turnovers to 25 points.
Pancake Thomas led WKU in scoring with 23 points.
Charlotte started the game with a 13-4 run that was topped off by an alley-oop layup from Quentin Jackson to Garvin with 13:41 left in the first. At the nine minute mark, WKU went on a 9-2 run to cut the Charlotte lead to one, 24-23, with 5:18 left. Anthony Vanhook, Davis and Ogbueze contributed to the 7-0 run that put the Niners up 31-23. A three from Ogbueze put the Niners up 36-24 with 2:20 on the clock, but a small push from WKU cut their deficit down, ending the half with a 38-30 score.
Charlotte came out aggressive and pushed the lead to 14 points, three minutes into the half. WKU still had a lot of fight in them and went on a 19-3 run, taking their first lead, 54-52, after free throws from Ben Lawson with 13:28 left in the second half. The next seven minutes went back and forth until Davis scored inside with just under six minutes left, giving the Niners the lead for good. Two big offensive rebounds from Aube in the same possession proved to be the final dagger, forcing WKU to foul and put the Niners in position to win off made free throws from Ajukwa and Ogbueze.
Charlotte will play their last home game of the season against Conference USA foe Marshall in Halton Arena, Saturday, at 6 p.m.