No. 11 Charlotte lost four games in overtime and three others by five or fewer points in league play this season.
On Wednesday the 49ers used all those experiences to push the No. 6 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders to the brink before falling 63-60 in the opening round of the Conference USA tournament.
“Our guys are resilient. They’ve been in this position before,” said Charlotte interim coach Ryan Odom. “We’ve had leads and lost some at times and we’ve also done the reverse like tonight where we were down and just not playing our best basketball. But they continued to fight.”
Charlotte looked poised to pull off the upset in the first half when the senior guard Pierria Henry scored 13 of his 15 points. His half-court heave at the buzzer gave Charlotte a 30-29 lead at the break.
Never miss a local story.
“Fifteen of our 30 shots in the first half were 3s,” Middle Tennessee State coach Kermit Davis said. “Usually, when we do that, offensively, we’re not as good. It was kind of like a double (edged) sword. We needed it. We needed all six of them.”
The Blue Raiders (17-15) went up nine with 8 minutes, 34 seconds to go, but Charlotte responded with a 12-3 run, tying the game at 54 on a layup by C-USA Freshman of the Year Torin Dorn with 4:52 remaining.
Dorn, a 6-foot-5 guard who played at Vance High, scored four in the first half but went off for 13 in the second to finish with a game-high 17 on 7-for-10 shooting. Mike Thorne Jr. had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
In a game that included 10 lead changes and 10 ties, Middle Tennessee State’s Reggie Upshaw Jr. put the Blue Raiders up for good with a two-handed dunk in traffic to make the score 62-60 with 32.1 seconds left.
The 49ers (14-18) had one more chance, but Henry turned the ball over on a key possession with 11 seconds left.
Perrin Buford had 14 to lead Middle Tennessee and D.J. Jones added 10 off the bench.
The Blue Raiders will face No. 3 Old Dominion on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.