NEW YORK If the Charlotte 49ers basketball season ended Friday, it did so amid a flurry of turnovers in a 72-55 defeat against Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals in Brooklyns Barclays Center.
It was the final Atlantic 10 game for Charlotte, which leaves after this season for Conference USA. The loss to the top-seeded Billikens (25-6) sends the ninth-seeded 49ers (21-11) back to Charlotte, where they will wait to hear Sunday night if theyve been invited to the National Invitation Tournament.
Its a no-brainer that the 49ers would accept a bid to the NIT, said Charlotte coach Alan Major, after his team gave the ball away 20 times against the Billikens. For the type of team we have, any experience we get past this point would be positive for us.
A day after Charlotte won its first-round game in controversial fashion against Richmond, when the Spiders were whistled for three technical fouls in the final five seconds, the 49ers were taken apart by an experienced and deep Saint Louis team that won the leagues regular-season championship and 13 of its past 14 games.
The youthful 49ers, who have struggled with turnovers all season and own the Atlantic 10s worst assist-turnover ratio, gave the ball away their first two possessions as the Billikens jumped to a 5-0 lead. Saint Louis hardly looked back, leading by as many as 16 points in the first half. Although the 49ers cut the lead to 19-16 when Chris Braswell hit a 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 53 seconds remaining, the Billikens responded with a 13-0 run over the next two minutes.
The Billikens scored 21 points off Charlottes turnovers.
They had a way of speeding us up, Braswell said. We were forcing things, trying to make home-run passes.
The 20 turnovers werent quite a season high (Charlotte had 22 against Texas State and 20 or more in three other games), but it was close. They came in a variety of ways Friday, some forced by the Billikens, but some that were clearly the product of carelessness, as when Saint Louis guard Mike McCall Jr. stripped Charlotte point guard Pierria Henry of the ball while Henry was looking to the bench for a play to call.
The ones that arent forced are the ones that you think you may see something thats not quite there, Major said. A lot of times its testing the defense for two or three or more passes. But (Saint Louis) did a great job. They sit on a lot of things. They deny a lot.
Braswell had 20 points and 10 rebounds and was the only Charlotte player to score in double figures, but he also had four turnovers. E. Victor Nickerson had six turnovers, Henry four and Terrence Williams three.
Forward Dwayne Evans led the Billikens with 25 points and nine rebounds.
The 49ers played the final 3:48 without Henry, who caught an elbow in the throat from Saint Louis guard Jordair Jett. Henry, who was having trouble breathing after going down, was taken to a local hospital as a precaution. He was diagnosed with a bruised trachea, but was OK after being released and returning to the team hotel.
The Billikens play fifth-seed Butler in a semifinal game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. They beat the 49ers the same way they have so many teams this season, according to interim coach Jim Crews: with some of this and some of that.
We get a little from defense, a little inside (play), hitting some 3s at the right time, get to the line, Crews said. We have a lot of different ways. Were not really good at any one of them, but were good at a lot of them. Thats the beauty of our team.