Size and experience finally caught up to Charlotte.
The 49ers lost a nine-point lead to second-seeded Middle Tennessee in a Conference USA quarterfinal and fell to the Blue Raiders 79-61 at Legacy Arena.
Charlotte, which started four guards, including three freshmen and played without 6-foot-11 senior Joseph Uchebo for the final 13 minutes, couldn’t match Middle Tennessee’s physicality.
The 49ers ended their season at 14-19, going 11-9 after a 3-10 start to the season. The loss came after beating Rice 79-69 in its opener Wednesday.
Middle Tennessee went on a 27-2 run over an 11-minute stretch from the last minute of the first half and outscored Charlotte 46-25 in the second half.
“Whether we were a little tired or what, who knows why we didn’t have the juice in the second half,” Charlotte head coach Mark Price said. “These guys, they fought hard for me all year long. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We’re going to get better.”
Three who mattered
Reggie Upshaw: The MT forward was the game’s top player, scoring 27 with nine rebounds.
Perrin Buford: Charlotte had no answer for the 6-foot-7 forward down low, as he hit 10-of-12 shots and scored 22.
Braxton Ogbueze: The junior guard was the 49ers only bright spot in the second half, scoring 13 of his team-high 21 points.
▪ Middle Tennessee outrebounded Charlotte 40-32, but a bigger sign was 6-foot-2 guard Giddy Potts having nine rebounds – more than any 49er.
▪ Charlotte was hot early, leading by nine at 36-27 before Middle Tennessee hit two threes late in the first half to cut the halftime score to 36-33.
▪ Middle Tennessee shot 68 percent in the second half to Charlotte’s 28 percent.
▪ The Blue Raiders outscored the 49ers 46-22 in the paint.
▪ Freshmen Jon Davis (12 points) and Curran Scott (10) also scored in double figures for the 49ers.
They said it
“Joe’s been a warrior for us every game this year. Unfortunately, it was just a matchup Joe was struggling with, which is unusual for him.” – Price on Uchebo’s benching.
“They were playing about as well as anybody in the league the last three weeks. Mark’s doing such a great job with a young team. That team’s going to be really, really good the next few years.” – Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis
“Throughout the year, we kept fighting. No matter what adversity we went through, we were a very resilient group. Credit to our young guys as well, for the first time going through it, they kept fighting.” – Charlotte’s Braxton Ogbueze