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 didnt 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 Charlottes 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 Texass 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.
Its about chemistry and not giving up, said Henry, who had 14 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. Ive known (Williams) since I first got to college and weve got a brotherhood, were eye-to-eye.
49ers coach Alan Major said hes certain only good things will happen when Henry has the ball in those kinds of situations.
There isnt anything scientific about it from a coachs standpoint, said Major. Theres no magic wand. Its your best ball handler making the best decisions at the end of the game. He didnt lose control, he didnt 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 Benfords thinking was far from Majors on how Henry made the final play happen.
I saw what he did against Tulsa, said Benford, whose team was led by Waltons 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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