The Charlotte 49ers (3-5) took down East Carolina University (6-5) 55-49 on Tuesday, Dec. 18. It was a good showing for the Niners who largely controlled the pace of the game, only trailing once.
The 49ers would start out hot, forcing a defensive stop and a shot clock violation on the way to a 6-0 run to start the game.
The Pirates would begin to rally back, however, as they would score seven straight on their own streak to make it 8-7.
With 9:36 remaining, the game was tied at 15-15 but the Niners would suffer from a lapse of concentration. On back-to-back plays, the Niners would have a shot clock violation, then allow a demoralizing alley-oop slam dunk from ECU’s Seth LeDay, forcing a timeout to attempt to change the momentum after ECU’s sudden lead.
“What we are trying to do is not allow us to become emotional and panic in moments,” said Head Coach Ron Sanchez after the game. “We have to learn how to adjust to the flow of the game. Teams make runs, teams make mistakes, players make mistakes.”
LeDay would terrorize the Niners in the first half, going 6-9 from the field with 12 points and three tone-setting dunks, but they would shut him down in the second half as they would hold him to only two points on five shots.
ECU was able to hold the lead for a few minutes until Jon Davis took a deep two, leaving the score 20-19 where they would hold the lead until the end.
The Niners would put in maximum effort on the next play as both Malik Martin and Dravon Mangum would miss but Milos Supica would make the bucket on the third effort. The turnaround would spark the team as Martin would then record a block on a mid-range jumper and Davis would convert two free throws on the other end. Mangum would then hit a three from the corner on the way to a Charlotte 8-0 run with 2:07 remaining on the clock in the first half. But once again, LeDay would have a large dunk to hold the momentum at bay. A play later, Brandon Younger would have the ball stolen for the second time in the half and ECU would convert the two, making it 31-26.
“We just need some able bodies,” said Sanchez on his bench players. “But those able bodies have to understand what to do and how we need to play…everybody here is held to the same standard.”
The Niners would get the final say in the half as Davis would record a block under the basket and Martin would convert the fastbreak afterwards. ECU would fail to score in the final 2:15.
The second half started out in less of a strong fashion but still with the 49ers in control of the game. The team would hold onto the lead after five minutes at 35-33 and still hold on after 12 minutes with a score of 44-39.
A few plays later, Supica would have a two-handed slam that would make the crowd roar, showing the Niners were still firmly in control — but only for the moment.
After controlling the pace throughout the majority of the game, the Niners would begin to lose control in the final few minutes.
Supica’s slam would be the last field goal the team would make in the game with 5:20 still remaining on the clock. Davis would miss a three pointer and the team would turn the ball over five times in the next five minutes. The Niners would score two shots from the line, but an ECU three pointer would bring the game to 51-49 with just under a minute to play.
The Niners would milk the clock until 30 seconds remained, leaving Davis to take a contested deep three that would bounce off of the rim. ECU would have a chance to tie the game, but a shot from LeDay from under the basket would miss and fall into Niner possession, turning the game into a foul-fest. The home team would make four foul shots before the game’s end.
At the end of the game, Coach Sanchez doubled down on his decision to let Davis shoot the deep three.
“At the end of the game, I’m gonna put the ball in Jon’s hands. That’s what’s gonna happen. When there’s a moment for this team, I’m gonna trust Jon to make the correct decision. That’s something that he wants, and that’s something that I think at this point with this team he deserves.” said Sanchez.
It was a statement win for Charlotte, beating a good team in a tough game in a fashion that the team will hopefully look to recreate in the future by taking the lead and not looking back.
“It was a good win for us. We held them under 50 points which is good and…we have a lot to work on, but it was a good start. We will enjoy this and celebrate it. We watch the film, we learn, and we grow.” said Sanchez.
The Niners will soon travel to Honolulu, Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic from Dec. 22-25. Charlotte will play their next game against TCU this coming Sunday, Dec. 23 at 12:30 a.m.