College Sports

Defense the difference as Charlotte 49ers down James Madison

Charlotte 49ers guard Jon Davis (3) has passed the 20-point mark four times in the last seven games.
Charlotte 49ers guard Jon Davis (3) has passed the 20-point mark four times in the last seven games. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

In the wake of a disappointing overtime loss against USC Upstate on Nov. 22, Charlotte men’s basketball coach Mark Price said he felt like his team took a step back defensively.

Since then, however, the 49ers, heralded for their high-octane offense, have made strides on the opposite side of the ball.

That progress showed Wednesday night at Halton Arena. Despite scoring the fewest points in a win under Price, Charlotte’s stout defensive play down the stretch helped it overcome a 35-29 halftime deficit to register a 65-56 victory over James Madison.

The Dukes (0-7) built their halftime lead by shooting 42.3 percent from the field. But toward the end of the period, the 49ers (5-2) shifted into a 3-2 zone to combat James Madison’s offensive success.

The move paid off. Charlotte forced four turnovers within the first five minutes of the second half, while also limiting the Dukes to just 1-of-7 from the field.

With momentum starting to build, the 49ers’ defense fed their offense. A 3-pointer by sophomore Jon Davis with seven minutes, 17 seconds left capped a 27-6 run by Charlotte and gave it a 56-43 lead it would never relinquish.

The 49ers ultimately allowed just 21 points in the second half on 26.7 percent shooting en route to their second straight win.

Charlotte 49ers men's head basketball coach Mark Price introduces members of the 2016-17 team at the end of their Green-Gold scrimmage. DAVID T. FOSTER III/THE. CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

Three who mattered

Davis: The sophomore guard finished with 22 points, marking the fourth time in seven games he’s surpassed the 20-point mark.

Andrien White: Although he finished the game just 1-for-4 on 3-pointers, the sophomore guard added three steals and a team-best eight rebounds to his 13 points.

Anthony Vanhook: Foul trouble limited his minutes, but the senior forward still finished with eight points and six rebounds.

Observations

▪  The Dukes’ success at the free throw line played a large part in their halftime lead, as they went 12-for-13 at the charity stripe. The 49ers, meanwhile, didn’t even attempt a free throw until a minute, 15 seconds remained in the first half.

▪  Charlotte allowed James Madison to haul in 14 offensive boards, which only led to seven second-chance points.

Worth mentioning

▪  Vanhook didn’t start for the 49ers because of “team reasons,” according to Price. The senior replaced Najee Garvin, who started in his place, with 16:33 left in the first half. But he only played five minutes in the period after picking up three fouls, including a technical.

▪  Redshirt junior Hudson Price dressed out for Wednesday’s game but didn’t play because of a hamstring issue.

▪  J.C. Washington exited the game with 19 minutes, 44 seconds left after being hit in the face by an opposing player’s elbow on a loose ball. He did not return.

They said it

“Would we have won this game last year? Probably not. So for me, that’s growth. Guys are maturing and we’ve been able to close out games other than the (USC) Upstate game. Every game we’ve had a chance to win, we’ve been able to close out, and that’s a positive step in the right direction.” – Price on the growth he’s seen from the team.

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