PROVIDENCE, R.I. Charlotte did not have an answer for Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton, as the Providence backcourt tandem combined for 41 points as the Friars eliminated the 49ers 75-66 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
“The margin wasn’t indicative of how hard fought it was,” said Charlotte coach Alan Major. “I am very proud of our guys. To come in here and take a Big East team to the wire, to fight them for 40 minutes and to battle it out the way they did, I am very proud.”
Cotton and Council combined for 22 points during the second half, including a stretch when Council scored eight straight points midway through the half.
The 49ers dropped six of their final nine games. They also dropped to 4-7 in the NIT, last winning an opening-round contest during 2006 against Georgia Southern.
Charlotte (21-12) went ice cold from the floor over a six-minute stretch during the second half, and the Friars capitalized. After the 49ers used a 7-0 run to take a 55-54 lead with 6 minutes, 38 seconds left in the game, the Friars went on a game-changing 15-4 run over the next six minutes, during which Charlotte made just one shot from the floor.
Providence freshman Kris Dunn (14 points) hit two buckets from close range and Council (16 points, six assists, five rebounds) started the run with a reverse layup as Providence surged to a 60-55 lead.
The 49ers halted the run momentarily on a pair of free throws by Willie Clayton (10 points, six rebounds) to cut the deficit to three, but they could get no closer. A 3-pointer in the corner from Cotton (game-high 25 points) and a dunk from LaDontae Henton put the game away.
“I thought those two guys did what high-level guards do,” Major said of Cotton and Council. “They made the right plays at the right time.”
During the first half, the 49ers went on a 10-4 run over the final 5:15 of the half to take a 36-33 lead at intermission. Clayton paced the team during the run with six points, including a pair of offensive rebounds and putbacks.
That run capped a back-and-forth half that saw neither team lead by more than five points.
E. Victor Nickerson led Charlotte with 14 points (10 in the first half) and seven rebounds, while Chris Braswell and Terrence Williams each added 12 points.
“We had some opportunities and just missed,” said Major. “It was a combination of them mixing up the rhythm of the game and us having some looks that didn’t go down.”
Percentages: FG .393, FT .737. 3-Point Goals: 4-13, .308 (Williams 2-3, Benkovic 2-4, Lewis 0-1, Braswell 0-1, Henry 0-2, Nickerson 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 4 (Braswell, Clayton, Henry, Nickerson). Turnovers: 12 (Henry 2, Ingram 2, Nickerson 2, Clayton 2, Clark 2, Williams, Braswell). Steals: 3 (Clayton 2, Nickerson). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .415, FT .696. 3-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (Cotton 4-8, Council 1-4, Fortune 0-2, Henton 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 7 (Henton 3, Council 2, Kofane, Batts). Turnovers: 5 (Council 3, Dunn, Cotton). Steals: 10 (Dunn 4, Council 2, Henton, Cotton, Batts, Kofane). Technical Fouls: Goldsbrough.
Att.–4,953. Officials–Tom Courtney, Lionel Butler, Brandon Cruz.