College Sports

Strong defense helps Charlotte 49ers past East Carolina

Charlotte 49ers senior Jon Davis shoots over ECU defenders during the first half of Tuesday’s victory over the Pirates at Halton Arena in Charlotte.
Charlotte 49ers senior Jon Davis shoots over ECU defenders during the first half of Tuesday’s victory over the Pirates at Halton Arena in Charlotte.

The Charlotte 49ers turned in a solid defensive performance Tuesday in a 55-49 victory against East Carolina at Halton Arena.

The 49ers (3-5), who broke a three-game losing streak with the victory, limited the Pirates (6-5) to 36.5 percent shooting. Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez’s “pack” defense, which is in large part designed to have opponents take contested 3-pointers, did just that as ECU made just 31.3 percent of its 3-point attempts.

Charlotte didn’t shoot so well itself, making just 39.2 percent of its shots. But Sanchez said it was the little things, or even smaller, that made the difference.

“We decided to focus on the non-obvious, things that most people don’t even see,” Sanchez said.

As an example, Sanchez talked about point guard Jon Davis’s eight rebounds (all defensive), to go along with his game-high 18 points. The 49ers also outscored ECU 9-1 on second-chance points.

Charlotte was up 33-26 at halftime, but the Pirates quickly erased that advantage with a 7-0 run to start the second half. Charlotte regained control after Malik Martin scored off a deft pass from Jon Davis, giving the 49ers a 35-33 lead. The Pirates then went scoreless for the next five minutes as Charlotte built a 42-36 lead on a Davis 3-pointer with 10:47 remaining.

The 49ers led for most of the first half, and closed things out on a 10-5 run that included holding the Pirates scoreless for the final 2:01. Charlotte took the lead 23-21 and didn’t give it back in the half after forward Milos Supica scored and was fouled with 5:33 left.

Charlotte extended the lead to 28-23 on a 3-pointer by freshman Brandon Younger with 4:01 left in the half.

Three who mattered

Jon Davis, Charlotte: Senior guard scored 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting, added eight rebounds and seven assists (to go with seven turnovers).

Malik Martin, Charlotte: Freshman guard scored 13 points, including some key baskets down the stretch, and pulled down seven rebounds.

Seth LeDay, East Carolina: Half of his six first-half baskets came on dunks. Finished with 14 points.

Worth mentioning

▪ Charlotte took a 33-26 advantage into halftime, the first time the 49ers led at the half this season.

▪ Tuesday was the 49ers’ first game since losing at Wake Forest on Dec. 6. Charlotte had a home game against South Florida on Dec. 9 canceled because of a snow storm; there has been no decision on whether that game will be made up. Next up for the 49ers is an appearance Sunday in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu against Texas Christian.

▪ ECU freshman forward Jayden Gardner entered the game leading the American Athletic Conference in scoring (19.0), was second in rebounding (8.6) and sixth in field-goal percentage (57.3).

▪ The Pirates hadn’t played since Dec. 2 (16 days ago, a 70-47 victory against Maryland-Eastern Shore) and are off for another 10 days before they are host to N.C. A&T.

▪ Laia Ravenatos’ 3-pointer from the corner as the buzzer sounded in overtime gave the 49ers’ women an 83-80 victory against Wright State on Tuesday afternoon. A Halton Arena women’s record crowd of 8,249 on Education Day watched the 49ers improve to 6-3.

They said it

“It wasn’t a beautiful game, but sometimes it has to be that way.” -- Sanchez.

“When the game is on the line, I’m going to put the ball in Jon’s hands. Every other team in the country can have that in their scouting report, I don’t care. He deserves that.” -- Sanchez, on his faith in Davis at the end of the game.

“I had seven assists, but also seven turnovers, so they kind of canceled each other out.” -- Davis.