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Charlotte 76, North Texas 74

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Charlotte 49ers rally in 2nd straight game

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/18/21/54/fplYj.Em.138.jpeg|420
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte 49ers guard Pierria Henry drives in for the score ahead of North Texas defenders in the first half of Saturday’s game at Halton Arena.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/18/21/54/gScEc.Em.138.jpeg|418
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte 49ers guard Ben Cherry (24) watches his three-point shot drop through the net over North Texas defenders in the first half of Saturday’s game at Halton Arena. .
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/18/21/54/1tmicj.Em.138.jpeg|411
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte 49ers center Mike Thorne Jr. (12) scores over North Texas defenders in the first half of Saturday’s game at Halton Arena..
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/18/21/54/3WkyT.Em.138.jpeg|465
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    North Texas center Kelvin Gaines (24) drives against Charlotte defender Willie Clayton (21) in the first half of Saturday’s game at Halton Arena.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/18/21/54/C6R1T.Em.138.jpeg|469
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte 49ers defenders Pierria Henry (15) and Marcus Bryan (30) prevent North Texas forward Kelvin Voss (33) from scoring under the basket in the first half of Saturday’s game at Halton Arena.

Saturday was déjà Puerto Rico for the Charlotte 49ers.

Terrence Williams’ dunk off a dish from point guard Pierria Henry as the buzzer sounded gave the 49ers a 76-74 Conference USA basketball victory against North Texas at Halton Arena.

Williams’ game-winner was similar to his late layup that beat Michigan 63-61 in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November. In that game, he took a pass from Henry and missed a layup but grabbed the rebound on the other side of the basket and scored with one second remaining.

“It was like Puerto Rico again,” said Williams, a junior guard who played at West Mecklenburg High. “And I didn’t throw it over the rim this time.”

Charlotte (12-5, 3-1) had to scramble to win this one, as they did against the Wolverines and Thursday in an overtime victory against Tulsa. Trailing North Texas (10-8, 1-3) by 11 points in the second half, Charlotte rallied behind a 1-3-1 zone defense and – again – the clutch play of Henry and Williams, who scored eight of Charlotte’s final 10 points.

The 49ers had narrowed a Mean Green lead to 74-72 on a Denzel Ingram jumper with 1 minute, 3 seconds left. Charlotte then got a steal by Henry (helped by the officials going to the replay monitor to give Charlotte the ball), a layup by Williams and a missed jumper by North Texas’s Brandan Walton. That gave Charlotte the ball with the score tied at 74 with 35 seconds remaining.

Henry, who scored six consecutive points on layups in the final minute against Tulsa to force overtime, ran down the clock, then used a ball screen by power forward Willie Clayton and flipped the ball to a breaking Williams along the baseline. Williams’ jam – as the buzzer sounded and the red light flashed around the backboard – stood after the referees again consulted the video monitor.

“It’s about chemistry and not giving up,” said Henry, who had 14 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. “I’ve known (Williams) since I first got to college and we’ve got a brotherhood, we’re eye-to-eye.”

49ers coach Alan Major said he’s certain only good things will happen when Henry has the ball in those kinds of situations.

“There isn’t anything scientific about it from a coach’s standpoint,” said Major. “There’s no magic wand. It’s your best ball handler making the best decisions at the end of the game. He didn’t lose control, he didn’t get off his feet. There was nothing impulsive. And he found Terrence.”

Williams’ 16 points led the 49ers, who again struggled at the free-throw line, making 57.9 percent after hitting 52.3 percent against Tulsa. Clayton added a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) and guard Shawn Lester scored 11.

North Texas coach Tony Benford’s thinking was far from Major’s on how Henry made the final play happen.

“I saw what he did against Tulsa,” said Benford, whose team was led by Walton’s 13 points. “He just broke us down. Williams made a great back cut and it was a great pass.”

Next up for the 49ers is a game at Louisiana Tech on Thursday. The Bulldogs (15-3, 3-0), tied for the C-USA lead with Old Dominion, have a big game at Southern Mississippi (15-3, 2-1) on Sunday.

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