College Basketball

Charlotte 49ers beat UTEP Miners in hard-fought C-USA game

Charlotte 49ers guard Braxton Ogbueze, left, scored 24 points in Saturday’s 88-78 win over UTEP.
Charlotte 49ers guard Braxton Ogbueze, left, scored 24 points in Saturday’s 88-78 win over UTEP. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com / File Photo

Charlotte’s men’s basketball team went through another gut-check Conference USA game Saturday night.

However, instead of having to go into double overtime for a win, the 49ers managed to settle this one in regulation, rallying in the second half to beat Texas-El Paso 88-78 at Halton Arena.

“Early on, we were struggling,” Charlotte coach Mark Price said. “Frankly, we just weren’t very good defensively in the first half. The miracle of that was that we were only down seven (points, 47-40).

“At halftime, I basically put it on the team – ‘If you guys want to win, go get some stops.’ They took pride in that in the second half … and we hit some big shots.”

Braxton Ogbueze scored 24 points and Andrien White added 22 for the 49ers (12-17, 8-8), who overcame a 10-point deficit early in the second half to win their second straight C-USA game.

Joseph Uchebo had 15 points and 10 rebounds, his 15th double-double this season, and Curran Scott 12 for Charlotte, which trailed 61-51 with 14 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.

But the 49ers went on a 15-2 run over the next five minutes to take the lead. Scott’s 3-pointer with 10:54 left tied the game at 63, and Ogbueze’s 3-pointer at the 9:50 mark put Charlotte ahead to stay.

Three who mattered

Braxton Ogbueze: Made 9 of 17 from the field, including 4 of 11 3-pointers, none bigger than the 3 that put the 49ers in the lead. Also had five rebounds and four assists.

Andrien White: Made 7 of 12 from the field, including 4 of 7 3-pointers, setting a 49ers record for 3s made by a freshman. But he missed the final 13 ½ minutes after coming down with leg cramps.

Joseph Uchebo: Another double-double night for the 6-foot-10 senior, scoring seven of his 15 points over the final 2:15 to help the 49ers clinch the win.

Observations

▪  It’s been a tough three-day stretch for the 49ers – taking a 114-108 double OT win over Texas-San Antonio Thursday night, then traveling to Chapel Hill for student manager Austin Rainey’s funeral Friday, followed by Saturday night’s physical win over Texas-El Paso.

▪  The Miners shot 75 percent from the field in the first half, making 21 of 28, including 5 of 9 3-pointers. But the 49ers held Texas-El Paso to 33.3 percent shooting (9 of 27) in the second half, including just 2 of 11 3-pointers.

▪  While the 49ers stayed close thanks to shooting 42.4 percent in the first half (14 of 33), including 5 of 13 3-pointers, they did better in the second half – 55.2 percent from the field (16 of 29), 5 of 10 on 3-pointers, and 11 of 12 from the free throw line.

▪  White’s four 3-pointers gave him 64 for the season, passing the 49ers’ single-season record by a freshman. The former mark was 61, set by Jobey Thomas during the 1998-1999 season.

Worth mentioning

▪  The 49ers players wore an “AR” patch on their jerseys in honor of Rainey, who was killed in an auto accident last week.

▪  Five 49ers seniors – Uchebo, Cameron Pappas, Bernard Sullivan, Mitch Warner and Gavin Wilson – were honored before the start of Saturday’s game.

▪  Sullivan, who ended his career in late December because of multiple concussions, suited up in his white 49ers uniform one last time for Senior Night.

▪  The 49ers wrap up their C-USA season with a pair of road games next week in Texas, at Rice on Thursday and at North Texas on Saturday.

They said it

“Over the season, we have made some progress. I remember a while ago, I mentioned knocking the door down. Tonight was an example of us finally knocking that door down. We held each other accountable, and we ended up getting stops.” – Ogbueze.

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