College Sports

Charlotte 49ers can’t overcome Rhode Island’s fast start in holiday tournament

Coach Ron Sanchez and the Charlotte 49ers will finish play in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Wednesday against Colorado.
Coach Ron Sanchez and the Charlotte 49ers will finish play in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Wednesday against Colorado. Tim Cowie -

The Charlotte 49ers fell in a big early hole and never recovered, falling 75-61 early Monday to Rhode Island in the second round of the Diamond Head Classic basketball tournament in Honolulu.

Rhode Island took a 25-5 lead over the game’s opening eight and a half minutes, and although the 49ers rallied several times to get close, they couldn’t catch the Rams.

Three Charlotte players scored in double figures, led by freshman Malik Martin, who had 16 points and six rebounds. Senior guard Jon Davis had 14 points and six assists, and freshman Brandon Younger finished with 10 points.

Guard Fatts Russell led the Rams with 20 points.

After Rhode Island shot to its early lead, the 49ers closed to 25-11, only to have the Rams score six straight points and build a 31-11 edge with eight minutes left in the half. Over the next five and a half minutes, the 49ers went on a 14-2 run and closed the deficit to 33-25.

Charlotte then cut the margin to 41-36 with 16:41 left in the game, but the Rams went on a 7-0 run and pulled away again.

That was followed by another 49er surge, with Charlotte trimming Rhode Island’s lead to 49-44 with a bit more than 11 minutes to play. Twice more in the closing minutes, the 49ers rallied to within five points but couldn’t get closer.

“We had a few open shots that didn’t go in,” 49ers’ coach Ron Sanchez said of the rallies that fell short.

Charlotte and the other seven teams in the tournament get the day off Monday, but the 49ers finish play in the Diamond Head Classic against Colorado on Christmas Day.

Records: Charlotte is 3-7; Rhode Island is 6-4.

Three who mattered

Martin (Charlotte): The 49ers’ freshman guard scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed six rebounds.

Cyrile Langevine (Rhode Island): Langevine, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, used his size to dominate, scoring 13 points, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds and blocking four shots.

Fatts Russell (Rhode Island): A 5-10 guard, Russell led the Rams with 20 points. He shot only 5-of-16 from the floor but was 8-of-8 from the foul line.

Worth mentioning

▪ The Rams tied a tournament record with nine blocked shots. It was the second straight night the 49ers were on the wrong end of a record-tying performance. In the opening round, TCU tied the Diamond Head Classic mark for steals.

▪ The 49ers did a much better job of protecting the ball against Rhode Island, cutting their turnover total from 21 in the opening round to 15.

▪ Charlotte and Rhode Island were fellow Atlantic-10 members from 2006-13, and the 49ers still hold a 7-6 lead in the all-time series.

▪ Colorado, the 49ers’ next foe, has faced Charlotte only once previously – during a holiday tournament in Charlotte in December 2002. The 49ers lost that game 76-74.

▪  Martin, the 49ers’ leading scorer in the game, is the younger brother of former Rhode Island standout forward Hassan Martin.

They said it

▪  “We got down early, and we could have folded, but we battled back. The effort was tremendous.” – 49ers’ coach Ron Sanchez.

What’s next?

▪ The 49ers will face Colorado in the seventh-place game of the tournament at 1 p.m. Tuesday, with coverage on ESPNU. Rhode Island plays Hawaii at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the fifth-place game, also on ESPNU.