From the final score of Thursday night’s Conference USA game against Rice, Charlotte looked like it had an easy time dispatching the Owls.
However, looks are deceiving – the 49ers had to work at it on both ends of the floor in the second half for a 102-73 victory at Halton Arena.
Braxton Ogbueze and Andrien White scored 20 points each to lead five players in double figures for Charlotte (9-15, 5-6), which had to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.
“Our focus didn’t seem to be where it needed to be,” 49ers coach Mark Price said. “We looked lost. I just challenged our guys at halftime that if we want to win this game, we’ve got to come out and play harder.
“Our guys came out with a whole different mindset. We were aggressive, both offensively and defensively. … I don’t know if I’ve ever quite seen a 40-point turnaround in a half.”
Jon Davis added 17 points and a season-high 10 assists, Curran Scott had 16 points and Joseph Uchebo put in 10 points and 15 rebounds for the 49ers.
Charlotte hung with Rice (8-16, 3-8) through most of the first half, which saw 12 lead changes and seven ties. But the Owls closed out the half with a 16-4 run for a 46-36 halftime lead.
Charlotte then opened the second half with four straight 3-pointers (the first two by White) to take its first lead, then outscored Rice 47-17 over the remaining 15 minutes and leading by as many as 32 points.
Three who mattered
Andrien White: Made 7 of 10 from the field, and 6 of 8 3-pointers – none more important that the back-to-back 3s to open the second half.
Braxton Ogbueze: Made 6 of 13 from the field, and 5 of 9 3-pointers. Also had five assists.
Jon Davis: Made 7 of 11 from the field, including 1 of 3 3-pointers. But his assists were key, especially in the second half.
▪ The 49ers made quite a turnaround in the second half – from 40.6 percent shooting and 5 of 11 3-pointers in the first half, to 70.6 percent shooting (24 of 34) and 12 of 18 3s in the final 20 minutes.
▪ Charlotte also made a big turnaround in protecting the ball – the 49ers had 10 turnovers in the first half, leading to 16 points for Rice, but only had three second-half turnovers, giving up one point.
▪ The 49ers’ defense also made a big turnaround – after forcing just eight Rice turnovers in the first half, they pushed the Owls into 11 second-half turnovers, leading to 19 points.
▪ Rice also struggled to find its shot in the second half. After making 20 of 33 from the field (60.6 percent) in the first half, the Owls were held to 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) in the second half.
▪ Rice freshman guard Marcus Evans, C-USA’s No. 3 scorer at 19.7 points per game, finished with 20 on Thursday. But he only had seven points in the second half after scoring 13 in the opening 20 minutes.
▪ Charlotte and Rice will face each other again in three weeks, with the Owls hosting the 49ers on March 3.
▪ The 49ers wrap up a three-game C-USA home stand on Saturday, hosting North Texas. Game time is 4 p.m.
▪ The 49ers will also hold their annual Alumni Game on Saturday, beginning at 1:15 p.m. Ticket holders to the Charlotte-North Texas game will be admitted free.
They said it
▪ “There was nothing but positive vibes coming out (at halftime). We started slow, but we were able to pick it up in the second half.” – White.
▪ “We locked in in the second half on defense, and they didn’t score as easily as they did in the first half. We did a way better job defensively, and that sparked our offense.” – Davis.