No one can be happy losing 18 games, but as human beings we tend to rationalize everything to avoid emotional collapse. There are certain things that have come to be accepted about this Charlotte 49ers team, the inconsistency, the poor ball handling, the poor shooting and weak inside defense(Thanks Phil Jones). Those things can’t be fixed overnight, but’s it is good to see glimmers of hope for this team even amidst this abysmal downward spiral.
The Richmond Spiders are a good team, and now they are the first road team to ever win four-straight at Halton Arena.
The Spiders took off to an early lead, jumping out to an 12 point lead at one point. Justin Harper was absolutely undefendable, scoring 22 points for the Spiders. Harper made three of five 3-pointers, and five of nine inside the arc. This guy doesn’t need much room, and continued to knock down fall-away jumpers despite the valiant efforts bey An’Juan Wilderness and KJ Sherrill keeping a hand in his face. Kevin Anderson had a poor shooting night, only making 5 of 17 shots from the field, but tallied 20 pts with the help of nine free throws, reaching the 2,000 career point mark midway through game. Richmond dominated the first half, outscoring Charlotte 18 to 6 in the paint and converting the Niners’ 10 turnovers into eight points. The Spiders led the Niners 34-24 going into the break.
Charlotte displayed an incredible effort in the second half though, opening with an 8-2 run to pull within four. Five of those points came from Senior An’Juan Wilderness, who, after four years, may have found a jumpshot. Wilderness knocked down two of three from behind the arc, to go with a couple of mid-range jumpers. His 16 points on 7/8 from the field led the Niners’ scoring on the night, although, to no surprise, An’Juan missed all three of his free throw attempts on the night. Whenever Charlotte got within three points in the 2nd half, either Justin Harper or Kevin Anderson answered with a bucket to keep the Niners at bay.
The Spiders were able to pull away as the game ended, showing why they have a chance to go dancing in March for the 2nd straight season. Richmond was able to widen the gap even more down the stretch with free throws, with the final score being 72-59. Richmond is under 70% on the year from the free throw tonight and, aided by the 19/19 performance Saturday, are over 97% against the 49ers.
“I thought we battled back and I’m really happy with the way our guys fought. It’s such a fine-line conference,” Charlotte head coach Alan Major said, also adding, “I thought if we could get the lead we’d have a chance to finish it.”
The situation is dire for the 49ers with only two games remaining in the regular season. With Saint Joseph’s upseting St. Bonaventure Saturday, the Hawks claimed a one game lead on the Niners for the 12th and final spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Niners go on the road to Xavier Wednesday while the Hawks will host Richmond, a Saint Joseph’s win Wednesday coupled with a Niners loss will knock Charlotte out of the A10 Tourney, which is unlikely as the Spiders will be expected to roll the Hawks. Next Saturday’s game should be the unofficial 1st round of the A10 Tournament, with the winner forced to endure another game of a disappointing season.