Charlotte (5-11, C-USA: 1-4) lost their third straight conference game after falling 73-63 to Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (13-5, C-USA: 5-0). Despite the scoring efforts of Jon Davis and Andrien White, who combined scored 44 of Charlotte’s 63 points, Western Kentucky remains undefeated in conference play after the win in Halton Arena.
“Western Kentucky is a really talented basketball team with a lot of veterans,” Charlotte 49ers interim head coach Houston Fancher said. “I would say they are probably the oldest team in our league as far as experience so it is a veteran team and a veteran starting lineup and they made some tough plays when faced with adversity. The underlying factor right now is the Niners are playing their tails off, effort wise. I am really proud of what we are doing from an effort standpoint. I love the way we never stopped playing until the horn went off. Now we made mistakes and we missed some shots that we don’t normally miss but I am really pleased with how our team competed tonight.”
Junior center Jailan Haslem dominated the boards pulling down 12 rebounds giving him his second double digit rebounding night of the season. Haslem battled versus the Hilltoppers 6-foot-7 forward Justin Johnson who pulled down 14 and 6-foot-10 center Dwight Colbey who had 12 boards of his own
Charlotte wasn’t able to get much production off the bench as only the starting five for the Niner’s scored. Austin Ajukwa added nine points to accompany Najee Garvin’s six which came early in the game.
Garvin scored the first points of the game which was followed by a bucket from Haslem to give the Niners a 4-0 lead to start the game. Lamonte Bearden responded with two and-one buckets giving the Hilltoppers the 5-4 lead with 15:54 in the first half.
Bearden would finish with 19 points and acted as the momentum killer for the Niners. Charlotte played from behind most of the game with nearly every run of momentum cut stopped by a bucket from Bearden. He lead his team in scoring with his 19.
With 9:46 Charlotte came within three after a dunk from Haslem making the score 15-12 but WKU would make a run giving them a 21-12 wth 7:25 remaining. WKU held Charlotte to 0-7 from three point range and just 20 points. WKU started the second half with an 8 point lead, 28-20.
Down 44-31 with about 14 minutes in the game Charlotte made an 8-0 run that them within five. With 12 minutes left on the clock WKU made another run to give them a 48-39 lead.
Charlotte had a few opportunities down the stretch to push the game to overtime after a 6-1 run which put them within four, but late game turnover and missed free throws allowed the Hilltoppers to extend the lead back to 10 and close the game out with a win 73-63.
The Niners return to action in Boca Raton, Florida Thursday January 18th at 7 to continue their Conference USA play.