Coming off a blowout win over Southern Miss, Charlotte went into its final road trip of the regular season hoping to build some momentum before the Conference USA tournament.
After Thursday’s frustrating loss at North Texas, Terrence Williams made sure the 49ers didn’t go home empty handed. His driving bucket with 8.4 seconds left lifted Charlotte to a 77-76 win Saturday at Rice in Conference USA action and avenged a Jan. 17 overtime loss to the Owls.
“I knew they were going to try to take away the rim, but I still got there and got the ball up on the rim,” said Williams, whose squad had lost four of its previous six games. “Luckily, I made it.”
Charlotte (13-16, 6-10 in C-USA) led by as many as 11 points late in the first half but erased a 5-point deficit in the final minute against Rice (10-18, 7-9). After Pierria Henry’s jumper with 39 seconds left trimmed the 49er deficit to 75-72, Rice’s Bishop Mency made one of two free throws. Henry followed with a 3 to make it a one-point game.
Braxton Ogbueze then forced a turnover by Rice’s Max Guercy with 22 seconds remaining to give Charlotte the ball with a chance to win it. After Williams’ go-ahead basket, Rice’s Seth Gearhart missed a 3 at the buzzer.
Williams, Torin Dorn and Mike Thorne Jr. scored 19 points apiece for the 49ers. “Sometimes you just have to make a play,” Charlotte interim head coach Ryan Odom said of Williams. “And that’s what he did.”
Charlotte led by nine early before Bishop Mency hit three 3-pointers to give Rice its first lead at 16-15 midway through the opening half. The 49ers answered with back-to-back 3s to retake the lead and pushed their advantage to double figures before going into halftime up 38-31.
Rice used an 18-3 run to take a 57-50 lead at the 10-minute mark. Charlotte continued to fight and won it on Williams’ shot in the final seconds.
Marcus Jackson led Rice with 21 points. Mency had 20 points and five 3s.
Charlotte closes the regular season next week at home against Western Kentucky (Thursday) and Marshall (Saturday).