Charlotte (5-15, 2-7 C-USA) executed a late comeback but it was not enough as the 49ers fell to UTEP (7-12, 2-6 C-USA) 57-53 in El Paso, Texas.
The Niners finished the game with two players in double-figures, led by Jon Davis who registered 23 points. Freshman Brandon Younger scored 10 points and added six rebounds.
UTEP had three players in double-figures, led by Evan Gilyard who recorded 13 points. Nigel Hawkins scored 12 points and Paul Thomas added 11 points.
The game started with both teams exchanging baskets in the first several minutes. Efe Odigie’s jumper tied the game at nine with 13:41 remaining in the first half. UTEP scored four straight points to take a 13-9 lead. After Younger hit a three-pointer, UTEP went on a 7-0 run taking a 20-12 advantage with 6:25 left. UTEP’s Kobe Magee made a three-pointer to extend their lead to nine points with 3:07 remaining. Charlotte finished the half with a jumper by Davis and a three-pointer by Jaylan McGill to cut the deficit to 23-19 at halftime.
The 49ers scored the first five points of the second half taking a 24-23 lead when Milos Supica connected on a jumper in the lane at the 17:51 mark. There were several lead changes over the next five minutes. Then UTEP went on a 10-2 run to take a 41-33 lead with 9:31 left. Then the 49ers went on their own 10-2 run tying the game at 43 when Davis knocked down a jumper with 5:07 remaining. Davis scored all 10 of the Niners points during their run. Miner Paul Thomas converted on a three-point play to give UTEP a 46-43 lead with 4:34 left in regulation. UTEP held a six-point lead with 1:29 remaining. Davis hit two free throws and a jumper to bring the 49ers within three points with 42 seconds left. With that jumper Davis scored his 1,900th career point.
UTEP committed a five-second call with 36 seconds remaining. On the Niners next possession Bo Blight made a layup cutting UTEP’s lead to 53-52 with 34 seconds remaining. Davis attacked the baseline and attempted a game-tying layup that was blocked by Jordan Lathon. UTEP made free throws down the stretch to close out the game.
Charlotte shot 38 percent from the field and 24 percent from three-point range. UTEP shot 36.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range.
Charlotte outscored UTEP 24-12 in the paint.
“I was proud of the way we fought today,” Charlotte coach, Ron Sanchez said. “We did not quit tonight.”
Charlotte returns to action when the 49ers take on Rice in Halton Arena on Thursday, Jan. 31. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.