College Basketball

Charlotte 49ers falter against Miami Hurricanes in Charleston Classic championship game

Miami wore down the Charlotte 49ers 77-58 Sunday on the way to the championship of the Charleston Classic at TD Arena.

The Hurricanes (5-0) broke open a close game late in the first half and cruised from there, handing the 49ers (3-1) their first loss.

The good news or bad – take your pick – for Charlotte is that the teams play again Tuesday at Halton Arena. In a scheduling quirk, the rematch comes as a “non-bracketed” game of the Charleston Classic.

“We’ve got a good feel for their personnel and what they like to do,” said 49ers coach Alan Major of the rematch. “But I’m more worried about what we’re doing.”

Chief among Major’s worries is the health of starting guard and leading scorer Braxton Ogbueze, who injured his right knee early in the game when he slipped on the floor underneath the Hurricanes’ basket.

The severity of the injury wasn’t known Sunday and Major said Ogbueze will have the knee examined Monday. Ogbueze (who still made the all-tournament team on the strength of his performances in games against Penn State and South Carolina) remained on Charlotte’s bench for the rest of the game, gingerly walking around during timeouts.

“It affected our depth a little,” said Major of not having Ogbueze against a Hurricanes team that won their three tournament games by an average of 22.3 points. “I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We need to own the way we played and we didn’t play as well as we could have.”

Led by two high-quality transfers, Miami pulled away from the 49ers late in the first half. Tournament most valuable player Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State), with 13 points, was one of five Hurricanes in double figures, joined by Sheldon McClellan (Texas) with 19, guard Manu Lecomte with 15, James Palmer with 12 and Tonye Jekiri with 11.

The 49ers got 19 points and six rebounds from center Mike Thorne and 11 points and five rebounds from point guard Pierria Henry. Guard Ivan Benkovic had nine points, making all three of his 3-pointers in the first half as the 49ers stayed close for 15 minutes.

The 49ers advanced to the championship game with a 106-97 double-overtime victory Thursday against Penn State and a 65-63 victory Friday against South Carolina in the semifinals.

“I thought we came back and played well in our first two games (in the tournament),” said Thorne. “We learned about our team and came together. We’ll only get better.”

Tuesday will be fifth game of an 11-day road trip for Miami, which beat then-No. 8 Florida 69-67 in Gainesville, Fla., on Nov. 17 before traveling to Charleston. The Hurricanes were to drive overnight Sunday to Charlotte, where they will spend Monday and another long day Tuesday before a 9 p.m. tipoff.

“This is something different, but at the same time it’s a great test for our team,” said Rodriguez, who was an all-Big 12 second-team player for Kansas State in 2012. “Charlotte is no joke. They’re very physical and play hard and compete. Whatever happened (Sunday) doesn’t mean it will happen in their house. If we go in there and say we just beat them by (19), then we’re going to get our butts beat.”

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