The travel-weary Charlotte 49ers are ready for a break and to come home.
Charlotte dropped a 78-70 decision to George Washington on Sunday in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center. After winning the first three games of the season, it was the 49ers’ fourth loss in five games, coming in their third road contest within eight days.
The 49ers (4-4) kept things competitive against the Colonials (5-1) for much of Sunday’s game, and they trailed just 48-45 after sophomore guard Braxton Ogbueze hit a 3-pointer with 12 minutes, 11 seconds remaining.
But George Washington’s Kethan Savage answered with a 3, and it wasn’t long until the Colonials extended their lead to as many as 14 points.
All that was left was for the 49ers to think about getting home. They’ve only played once at Halton Arena in their first nine games, a 77-74 loss against then-No. 17 Miami.
“It’s going to be big,” said Ogbueze, who scored a career-high 27 points. “We’ve been on the road a lot, traveling. The guys are probably feeling a little beaten down. We’ll go home and get our minds and bodies right and get ready to attack again.”
The 49ers will take a break for exams this week then return for home games next week against College of Charleston (Dec. 16) and Appalachian State (Dec. 18), before returning to the Verizon Center against Georgetown on Dec. 20.
For a second consecutive game, the 49ers’ defense struggled to stop an Atlantic 10 opponent. George Washington (5-2) shot 54.7 percent (including 50 percent from 3-point range). In a 92-86 loss Wednesday at Davidson, the Wildcats hit 58.9 percent of their shots, 46.7 percent of their 3-point attempts.
Indications of what kind of game it would be defensively came early. George Washington’s Patricio Garino scored 10 consecutive points during one first-half stretch, many of them coming on layups or dunks, as the Colonials jumped to a 22-14 lead.
“We were about to get a lot of high-percentage shots going to the basket,” said Colonials coach Mike Lonergan.
George Washington, one of the A-10’s preseason favorites and an NCAA tournament team last season, scored 21 points off 14 Charlotte turnovers.
“We knew they were a little undisciplined defensively,” said Garino, a junior from Argentina, who finished with 21 points.
The 49ers stayed in the game thanks to a few runs of their own. They outscored George Washington 13-4 during one first-half stretch and 17-7 in the second half.
Ogbueze and point guard Pierria Henry (13 points, six assists, six rebounds, three steals) led Charlotte. Power forward Willie Clayton had 14 rebounds. The 49ers couldn’t take advantage of a 19-8 edge in offensive rebounding, outscoring the Colonials only 17-9 on second-chance points. The Colonials also outscored Charlotte 44-28 in the paint.
Coach Alan Major said the 49ers will spend this week in exams but also will take a “training camp mentality” to practice as classes end for the semester and games await next week.
“We’ll be able to focus on some things,” said Major. “Being at home doesn’t guarantee victory, but it will be good to be back at Halton.”