TALLAHASSEE, Fla. What do the Charlotte 49ers take from Tuesday’s 106-62 loss against Florida State, a defeat that was embarrassing to the program on so many levels?
“We just got our butts handed to us,” said senior guard Ben Cherry of one of the most lopsided defeats in school history. “If this doesn’t light a fire underneath us, nothing will. Whatever high we were on, it’s time to get back to business.”
The 49ers (7-3), who just three weeks ago upset nationally ranked Michigan and were receiving votes in national polls at the time, were outplayed in every department by the ACC’s Seminoles (7-3).
But the humiliation went beyond basketball. Charlotte’s two best players – point guard Pierria Henry and power forward Willie Clayton – lost their composure in the second half and were ejected. Henry was tossed when he taunted Florida State center Michael Ojo after dunking on the 7-foot-1 center. Clayton was thrown out later after committing a flagrant-2 foul.
“That’s not excusable,” 49ers coach Alan Major said. “Both guys apologized to their teammates in the locker room. They know it was wrong.”
The 44-point loss wasn’t the worst in Charlotte history – Guilford beat the 49ers by 74 in 1967, four years before the 49ers moved up to NCAA Division I status – but it was among them. Charlotte hadn’t been trounced this soundly since losing 101-59 against Duke in 2009.
“Probably the most disappointing thing is that we didn’t play to our character, to our identity,” said Major, whose team got 16 points from reserve guard Shawn Lester. “We want to be tough defensively, get what we want offensively and make those toughness and hustle plays. That’s why we’d been pretty successful to this point, but (Tuesday) we were 0-for-3 on those against a very good team.”
The outcome was never in doubt. The Seminoles led 52-30 at halftime and led by as many as 49 points with one minute, 33 seconds remaining.
“They came out so hard on us, we got spooked,” Cherry said. “We started taking bad shots and forcing things. We weren’t sticking to our defensive game plan.”
Getting 26 points from guard Aaron Thomas and 18 from guard Ian Miller (who played at Charlotte’s United Faith Christian), the Seminoles outrebounded the 49ers 45-33 and used several of their 30 defensive rebounds as launching pads for 14 fast-break points. Florida State also scored 30 points off 19 49er turnovers.
The Seminoles had a healthy respect for the 49ers and knew of what they were capable. Charlotte’s victory against Michigan in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off came two days after the Wolverines had beaten the Seminoles in the semifinals.
“All that energy and focus was a reflection of having so much respect for Charlotte,” said Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton, a Gastonia native. “This team brought out the best in us.”
The 49ers don’t have much time to put Tuesday’s debacle behind them. Next up is a game Saturday against USC Upstate in Halton Arena.
“We’ve got to wipe this (from our minds),” Cherry said. “But we’ve also got to use it as motivation.”
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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