The Charlotte 49ers’ college basketball game against Alabama-Birmingham at Halton Arena on Saturday ended the way so many others have recently: with a disheartening loss.
The Blazers’ 64-62 victory before a crowd of 6,200 – sealed by a steal by UAB guard and Charlotte native Chad Frazier – sent the 49ers to their fifth consecutive loss and seventh in nine games.
“I believe in every single one of these guys,” 49ers coach Alan Major said. “We’ve got the capability to bust through this deal. We’ve got to continue to squeeze.”
Little has gone right for the 49ers (14-12, 5-8 C-USA) since their last victory (Feb. 1, Florida Atlantic). And that what-can-go-wrong-now vibe reappeared on Charlotte’s final possession, when the 49ers had a chance to tie UAB (17-10, 6-7), which had gone ahead 64-62 on a tip-in by Fahro Alihodzic with 14 seconds left.
Charlotte point guard Pierria Henry, whose 3-pointer had tied it before Alihodzic’s tip, brought the ball up and tried to dribble into the lane. In victories in better times this season against Michigan and North Texas, Henry had done the same in similar circumstances, each time dishing the ball to Terrence Williams for the winning points.
This time, however, UAB’s Frazier flicked the ball away from Henry before he could either shoot or pass. Frazier, who played high school basketball just a few miles away from Halton at Concord’s First Assembly Christian, dribbled the ball down court, killing the clock.
“I saw (Henry) was going to beat our big men to the basket, so I stepped in and took the steal,” said Frazier, who led the Blazers with 16 points.
Williams added 14 and Lester 12 for the 49ers. Perhaps the day’s frustrations were best captured by the 6-foot-4 Lester, who missed two open dunks. Or maybe it was a fast break the 49ers had with a chance to take the lead, only to have Henry, who was under no defensive pressure, throw the ball away.
“We start struggling in the second half,” Lester said. “We’re getting tired and not getting rebounds, not getting loose balls and we’re rushing shots. I guess it’s a mental thing.”
UAB’s Frazier entered as C-USA’s second-leading scorer (18.1 points per game). Before going to First Assembly, he was a teammate of the 49ers’ Williams at West Mecklenburg High.
Frazier said the 49ers recruited him in high school, but he wanted to play farther from home. After two seasons at Florida’s Gulf Coast Community College, he transferred to UAB.
“This was big,” he said. “I had a lot of family and friends here, and I wanted to get the win really bad.”
Charlotte, which plays at East Carolina on Thursday, again struggled at the free-throw line, going 8-for-15 (after hitting 3 of 10 Thursday in a loss to Middle Tennessee). Power forward Willie Clayton, who had just two points and four rebounds, missed all five of his free throws. The 49ers were outrebounded by the Blazers 43-38, not bad considering UAB is ranked second nationally in rebounds per game. Charlotte center Mike Thorne, however, had 10, eight defensive.