Conference USA-leading Middle Tennessee recovered from an early Charlotte challenge Saturday night and rolled past the 49ers 70-55.
The Blue Raiders (22-4, 12-1 C-USA), who had problems stopping the smaller 49ers in the paint during the game’s opening 20 minutes, dominated under the basket in the second half and pulled away.
Charlotte (11-13, 5-8) battled back to within six points early in the second half, but the 49ers’ comeback efforts were short-circuited by a 3-of-17 performance on 3-point field goals and some shaky second-half foul shooting.
Symbolic of the evening was a 3-pointer taken by Andrien White with 15 minutes remaining. The ball went in the rim and then bounced out, preventing the 49ers from cutting the Middle Tennessee lead to five points.
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The 49ers opened quickly, racing to a 14-6 lead in the opening 8½ minutes. Najee Garvin, whose career high had been 12 points, scored half of Charlotte’s opening 14 points and had 11 midway through the half.
But Garvin didn’t score again in the half, and Charlotte, which hit 9 of its first 16 shots from the floor, made only 1 of 9 after that.
Middle Tennessee, meanwhile, warmed up after a slow start. The Blue Raiders broke a 20-20 tie on a jump shot by Giddy Potts and outscored the 49ers 13-4 over the final six minutes of the half.
3 who mattered
JaCorey Williams, Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders’ scoring leader had 21 points, including a highlight-reel dunk in the closing minutes.
Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee: His 17 points included 13 in the first half. Potts’ scoring and defense was key to the Blue Raiders’ surge before halftime.
Austin Ajukwa, Charlotte: Despite a 2-of-10 shooting night, Ajukwa grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds against a taller team.
▪ Jon Davis entered the game having made his last 20 free throws, but he missed 2 of 4 in the first half.
▪ The 49ers made nine of their first 16 shots but hit only 11 of their next 36.
▪ Middle Tennessee might be the closest thing Conference USA has to an NCAA tournament at-large lock. The Blue Raiders are 38th in the most recent RPI rankings.
▪ 49ers coach Mark Price started four guards, hoping that pressure would negate Middle Tennessee’s big height advantage.
Middle Tennessee 83, Charlotte 81: The 49ers (17-7, 9-4 Conference USA) scored 51 points in the second half and overcame a 23-point deficit to force the game's only four ties in the final 5:38, but league-leader Blue Raiders (16-8, 11-2 ) pulled away for the win at Halton Arena.
Charlotte’s Nyilah Jamison-Myers finished with her fifth career double-double, tallying 19 points and a game-best 10 rebounds.
Senior Lefty Webster led the 49ers in scoring with 22 points, while sophomore Grace Hunter finished just shy of a double-double of her own with 20 points and nine boards.