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Charlotte 49ers off-balance in 59-56 loss to Marshall

By Keith Cannon
Correspondent
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/15/22/38/1sCN6X.Em.138.jpeg|407
    JASON E. MICZEK - WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM
    Charlotte's Shawn Lester (3) gets pressured by Marshall's Devince Boykins (15) during a Conference USA men's college basketball game at Halton Arena.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/15/22/38/AlKHS.Em.138.jpeg|500
    JASON E. MICZEK - WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM
    Charlotte’s Ben Cherry (24) goes airborne for a layup against Marshall's Shawn Smith during Saturday’s game at Halton Arena. Charlotte lost 59-56.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/15/22/38/zwBNn.Em.138.jpeg|365
    JASON E. MICZEK - WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM
    Charlotte's Willie Clayton (21) is pressured by the Marshall defense during a Conference USA men's college basketball game at Halton Arena.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/15/22/38/EmQuD.Em.138.jpeg|457
    JASON E. MICZEK - WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM
    Charlotte forward Willie Clayton (21) looks to rebound a loose ball while facing Marshall during a Conference USA men's college basketball game at Halton Arena.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/15/22/38/WqVex.Em.138.jpeg|449
    JASON E. MICZEK - WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM
    Charlotte head coach Alan Major cheers on the 49ers while facing Marshall during a Conference USA men's college basketball game at Halton Arena.

The last possession for the Charlotte 49ers in Saturday night’s 59-56 men’s basketball loss to Marshall was typical of the way things have gone for them the past several games.

A little off-balance.

The 49ers (14-10, 5-6 Conference USA) had a couple of 3-point chances in the last 20 seconds to send the game to overtime. But sophomore guard Shawn Lester missed from the top of the key and junior guard Pierria Henry’s try from the right corner rimmed out, sending Charlotte to its third straight loss and fourth in the past six games, in front of 5,525 fans in Halton Arena.

Lester, a former Mooresville High standout, scored 16 points off the bench and senior guard Terrence Williams (West Mecklenburg) added 14 for the 49ers, who let an 11-point first-half lead slip away and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.

“It was uncharacteristic of us in a lot of ways,” Charlotte coach Alan Major said. “We’re a better basketball team than the way we played. Offensively, we were out of rhythm and we missed shots we usually make. We had some great looks, but at some point we started to overthink it.”

Guard Kareem Canty scored 21 points and guard Chris Thomas added 18 for Marshall (9-17, 3-8), which broke a three-game losing streak.

The 49ers shot 35.5 percent from the field, but used an early hot streak to run out to a 30-19 lead on Marcus Bryan’s only basket of the game, a layup with 7:51 left before halftime.

But the Thundering Herd came roaring back, closing the half on a 17-2 run. The 49ers’ only basket in the final eight minutes was a putback by Willie Clayton with 3:30 left before the break.

Marshall led 36-32 at halftime and carried that momentum into the second half, with another 8-2 run for a 50-41 lead. The scoreboard stayed stuck there until Lester nailed a 3-pointer and added a midrange jumper for the 49ers to trim the lead to 50-46 with 7:52 to play.

“The run at the end of the first half gave them (Marshall) a lot of confidence, and I think that carried over into the second half. You hold a team to 40 percent shooting like we did and you should have a good chance to win, but we had some turnovers and missed opportunities.”

But none bigger than in the final minute.

Lester nailed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left for the game’s final points. Marshall couldn’t get the ball inbounds, giving the 49ers one more possession, but the two three-point tries failed.

“I always think my shots are going in,” said Henry, who scored 6 points, about half his average. “I got a good look but it wouldn’t stay down. I’ll live to shoot another day.”

The 49ers had a 48-35 rebounding advantage in the game, led by 16 boards from Clayton and nine from Henry.

NOTES: The 49ers host Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Halton Arena … Senior guard Ben Cherry left the game with an apparent sore shoulder in the first half and didn’t return for the second half.

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