The third time still was a charm for Charlotte, as it advanced to the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament quarterfinals Wedneday with a 79-69 win against Rice at Legacy Arena
The seventh-seeded 49ers (14-18) play No. 2 seed Middle Tennessee (21-9) at 7 p.m. Thursday. This was a tougher test for Charlotte, which won by 30 and 13 against Rice during the regular season. The score was tied at 61 with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left before the 49ers pulled away.
Charlotte led 39-25 at halftime but trailed by a point briefly in the second half.
“It’s a win or go home this time of the year,” Charlotte guard Braxton Ogbueze said. “We knew they were going to fight like it would be their last game. We responded by regrouping and maintaining a lead and coming out with a win.”
Three who mattered
Jon Davis: The freshman went scoreless a week ago against Rice but put in a career-high 27 Wednesday.
Braxton Ogbueze: He sank four 3-pointers for the 49ers, scoring 19.
Marcus Evans: Rice’s star freshman scored 27, 23 after halftime, getting the Owls back in the game.
▪ Rice double-teamed Charlotte big Joseph Uchebo every time he got the ball, but he did his damage on the glass with 18 rebounds. Uchebo also looked nimble bringing the ball up on the fast break, though it didn’t result in points. He scored 12.
▪ Charlotte has to win four games in four days to move on but had to play Davis and Ogbueze 40 minutes each. There isn’t much depth on this young 49ers squad.
▪ It was a game of runs early. Charlotte’s 15-0 run put the 49ers ahead 21-7. Rice followed with an 11-0 run before Charlotte’s 9-0 run gave it a 30-18 lead.
▪ Charlotte lost 73-72 in overtime to Middle Tennessee State in their only meeting Jan. 14. Middle Tennessee Satte won’t have guard Ed Simpson, who injured his ankle Wednesday.
▪ Rice pounded Charlotte in the paint, outscoring the 49ers 48-32. Middle Tennessee’s big men are more perimeter-oriented.
They said it
▪ “Pray. Pray that he holds up. Joe’s been a warrior all year. Even though Joe’s hurting, he’s going to fight me to come out of the game.” –Charlotte coach Mark Price on Uchebo playing 33 minutes.
▪ “This time of the year, we’re not worried about tired. It’s mind over matter and we want to win.” – Ogbueze on he and Davis each playing 40 minutes.
▪ Rice’s Max “Guercy, he’s a good player, but he’s a little bit smaller than me. I figured I could attack him off the dribble and shoot over his head.” – Davis