The Charlotte 49ers made history Saturday night, winning the first seven games of the season for the first time in school history.
Charlotte defeated East Carolina 76-64 in front of 7,896 fans in Halton Arena.
“Tonight’s win was a total team effort,” said Charlotte 49ers head coach Alan Major. “Everybody contributed to tonight’s win. We played with a great deal of energy. The crowd was tremendous tonight and they really gave us a boost.”
Major held a meeting with members of Niner Nation just three days prior to the game, asking students to “recruit fellow students to occupy Halton.”
“You can’t see it, but the hairs are standing up under this long-sleeve dress shirt,” said Major while describing the atmosphere of the game.
Charlotte forward Chris Braswell recorded his fourth straight double-figure scoring game, leading the team with 18 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds during the 24 minutes he played. Forward Willie Clayton recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“I knew they were playing behind me and they weren’t sending any double-teams and playing a lot of one-on-one,” Braswell said.
“That was perfect for me as long as they didn’t send the double-team. I was able to get my game going. If we can get a lot of shots in the paint, that’s a great thing. We got a lot of easy layups.”
A total of 11 players saw action for Charlotte.
“It was another team effort, and I know it sounds like an old cliché, but everybody who jumped in chipped in toward the outcome,” Major said.
Charlotte never trailed during the game. In fact, the 49ers began with a 9-2 run over the first four minutes with the help of Pierria Henry, Darion Clark, Clayton and Terrence Williams.
At one point, Charlotte had stretched their lead over the Pirates to 18, 28-10, when freshman guard Ivan Benkovic aced a 3-point basket with under nine minutes left in the first half.
East Carolina continued to fight back, scoring 16 of the next 23 points to shrink Charlotte’s lead to single-digits. After a pair of Clayton free throws, Charlotte entered the half with a 37-26 lead.
Even though East Carolina’s Michael Zangari scored the first basket in the second half cutting Charlotte’s lead to single-digits, Charlotte wouldn’t allow the lead to shrink anymore. After a 5-0 run, the 49ers stretched their lead to 14, 42-28, with just over 16 minutes left.
The 49ers’ largest lead of the night came with 2:48 left in the game, 75-56, after a Clayton free throw.
The first real test for the 49ers will come on Wednesday night when Charlotte travels to Davidson. This will be the first time Charlotte has played in a hostile environment this season.
“I want to see them carry humility into Wednesday night,” Major said. “We talk about the parallels between basketball and life all the time.
“One thing about that is there are no guarantees. What we’ve done – the game doesn’t owe us anything going into Wednesday night.
“My big thing is prepare big and practice big so you can play big. Don’t let the game be bigger than our performance.”