The Charlotte 49ers shrugged off a sloppy first half Thursday and went on to beat North Texas 73-57 in a Conference USA game at Halton Arena.
The 49ers (8-8, 2-2) committed 13 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes before righting themselves and outscoring the Mean Green (7-9, 1-3) 53-33 in the second half to win by their largest margin of the season.
Charlotte also benefited from three technical fouls called against two North Texas players in the second half. The third technical resulted in the ejection of Mean Green guard DeAndre Harris, who initiated a brief altercation with 49ers guard Pierria Henry.
Henry, who also had a technical foul later in the game, led Charlotte’s second-half rally, finishing with 21 points, making all four of his shots (including both his 3-point attempts) and going 11-for-12 from the free-throw line. Henry also had seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
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But as well as Charlotte played in the second half, the first half was shaky at best for the 49ers. Charlotte trailed 24-20 at the break, struggling to figure out North Texas’s zone defense and turning over the ball 13 times.
“In the second half, our guys freed up a little bit,” Charlotte interim coach Ryan Odom said. “I think I made them a little nervous before the game about the importance of being balanced (offensively) inside and out. When you play a team that plays a lot of zone, you settle for jump shots. And they played the passing lanes very well.”
Charlotte buttoned up its offense in the second half, scoring on nine consecutive possessions at one point and shooting 56.5 percent.
It was during that pivotal stretch that Harris and forward Colin Voss both received technicals for arguing with the referees.
Harris’ technical came after he fouled Henry on a fast break with 15 minutes, 44 seconds remaining. Henry made four straight free throws to give the 49ers a 34-32 lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish.
Harris was thrown out of the game by referee Bryan Kersey with 6:19 left after Harris took what appeared to be a swipe at Henry, with whom he had been jostling and talking.
“We lost our poise in the second half,” Mean Green coach Tony Benford said. “We were very undisciplined, and that’s on me. We had some guys who were selfish and got caught up worrying about the refs instead of the game.”
It was the second ejection of the young conference season for Harris.
“We were just competing, playing hard,” said Henry, who received a technical of his own a few minutes later. “I have a lot of respect for (Harris’) game. It was a fun matchup.”
49ers guard Braxton Ogbueze broke out of a shooting slump by scoring 14 points, including 3-of-3 3-pointers. He had missed 12 consecutive 3-pointers over the previous four games.
Charlotte outrebounded North Texas 42-34, with 33 coming on the defensive boards. Power forward Willie Clayton had 13 rebounds, 10 of them defensive.
Clayton said he didn’t think the game was too physical, despite the technicals. He shrugged off a mention of his 13 rebounds.
“That’s what I do,” Clayton said.