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49ers fall again on the road, with coach ejected in closing minutes

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David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
As the Charlotte 49ers were working on a late-game comeback Sunday, normally composed coach Alan Major (above, file photo) was whistled for two technical fouls and ejected after he protested what he felt should have been a Golden Eagles foul on 49ers guard Denzel Ingram. It was the first ejection in Major’s three-plus seasons as a head coach (all at Charlotte).

HATTIESBURG, Miss. The Charlotte 49ers have probably seen enough of the Conference USA road for the time being after an 81-64 loss against Southern Mississippi on Sunday at Reed Green Coliseum.

It was the fifth consecutive road defeat for Charlotte (14-9, 5-5), which will return to Halton Arena (where they’re 4-0 in league play and 9-2 overall) for three consecutive games beginning Saturday against Marshall.

While Sunday’s game might have gone predictably enough – the 49ers have become a woeful road team and Southern Miss (21-3, 8-1) is unbeaten at home – what happened in the final three minutes brought a surprise.

As the 49ers were working on a late-game comeback, normally composed coach Alan Major was whistled for two technical fouls and ejected after he protested what he felt should have been a Golden Eagles foul on 49ers guard Denzel Ingram. It was the first ejection in Major’s three-plus seasons as a head coach (all at Charlotte).

The 49ers had cut a 21-point Southern Miss lead to 10 on a 3-pointer by point guard Pierria Henry, when Ingram stole a Golden Eagles pass and couldn’t convert a layup that would have cut the lead to eight.

Major jumped from the bench and shouted and pointed at referee Tom Eades; that earned him his first technical with 2 minutes, 56 seconds left. The second technical – and the one that earned him an early trip to the locker room –came seconds later when Major slapped the advertising panel on the scorer’s table in frustration.

The Golden Eagles’ Jerrold Brooks hit all four free throws, making it 70-56, and Southern Miss outscored Charlotte 11-8 the rest of the way.

“I apologize for it; it was unacceptable,” Major said. “I don’t try to get too involved in the officiating, but I thought Denzel was bumped pretty good. I had made the comment (to the referees) a couple of possessions before, that with the clock ticking down, just because it’s a double-digit game, don’t stop calling the game the right way.

“I thought they were letting things go because they didn’t think my team had a chance to win the game. But I felt like I took the steam out (of the comeback) by doing what I did.”

The 49ers started the game impressively enough, running out to a 9-2 lead. The Golden Eagles soon got their transition defense in gear, though, eventually generating 25 points off 20 49ers turnovers. Southern Miss also outrebounded Charlotte 37-25, scoring 22 points on second-chance points.

“As soon as things start falling short on the road, we put our heads down,” said Henry, who committed five turnovers. “By the time the second half comes, we’re down 15 or 20 points and we have to try and make a run. We’re not going to give up, but that’s tough.”

Sophomore guard Shawn Lester was the main reason the 49ers were able to keep the game from getting too out of hand, scoring 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting (including four of eight 3-pointers). Henry, who went scoreless in the first half, had 11 points, three assists and two steals.

Southern Miss, which is tied for first place in C-USA with Texas-El Paso, got 19 from Brooks.

Henry said he appreciated Major’s emotional outburst.

“He was just trying to fight for us, like we fight for him,” said Henry. “Frustration is hard to fight when you’re losing. But it was the passion, pride and love he has for us that came out. It could have been the wrong timing or good timing. We couldn’t bounce back from it.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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