The hits keep on coming for this Charlotte 49ers basketball team. The Niners(10-14, 2-8 A10) gave up a 17-point lead in the 2nd-half before forcing overtime, and eventually losing to the Rhode Island Rams(16-9, 7-4 A10) on a buzzer beating tip-in by Jamal Wilson, his only field goal on the day.
The Niners started the game as hot as the Rams were cold. Chris Braswell scored seven points during a 14-2 run for Charlotte midway through the first that put the Niners in front 27-13 with 2:51 left. The run was capped off by Derrio Green fastbreak dunk fueled by a KJ Sherrill steal. The Rams answered with a 10-5 run of their own, closing Charlotte’s lead to 9 at the half, the score being 32-23. The Niners shot 50% during the first half, holding the Rams to under 33% and just 17% from behind the arc.
The 2nd-half looked like it too would go the Niners way as two Derrio Green 3-pointers were part of an 8-0 run that put the Niners up 40-23 with 18:28 to play. Then out of the shadows came our nemesis, the full court press. Over the next seven minutes, the Niners coughed the ball up five times, four of those by Sherrill and the fifth a questionable offensive foul on An’Juan Wilderness. At the end of that onslaught of turnovers, the Rams had cut the lead to one, trailing 44-43 with 10:35 on the clock.
The Rams continued to hold momentum, as baskets were traded back and fourth, Rhode Island found themselves out front, 61-57, going into the final media timout. Charlotte then fought to close regulation with a 7-3 run, sending the game into overtime tied at 64. Braswell, however, missed a free throw with 45 seconds remaining, that would have allowed the Niners to win in 40 minutes, barring something heartbreaking happening(like that ever happens to the Niners).
Charlotte was seemingly in control of the overtime period, a Braswell layup gave Charlotte the early OT lead, but Jamar Briscoe and Braswell had too many fouls to finish the overtime period, fouling out two minutes apart. A KJ Sherill jumper gave the Niners their final lead, before Derrio Green’s free throws put the Niners up 70-67 with 34 seconds remaining. The Charlotte defense forced Rhode Island to burn 22 seconds off the clock before allowing a layup with 12 seconds remaining. However, trapped in the corner Green had the ball tied up, giving possession to the Rams with 7 seconds left. With 3 seconds left, Javarris Barnett swatted a Marquis Jones lay-up out of bounds with authority, but the Niners were not so lucky on the next inbounds play. Akeem Richmond put up a 3-pointer from a corner, while Jamal Wilson was waiting at the basket, and Derrio Green was not boxing out.
“Some teams might have crumbled. Some teams would have ended up with a 15-point loss,” Coach Major said, also adding, “Our guys came back and sent it into overtime and got the lead back. We want that to be our culture – to have that fight. We outplayed a really good team on their home floor for 35 of 45 minutes. When we were good today, we were really good. That’s something we want to capture.”
The Niners played their fifth overtime game, and tenth overtime period of the season, falling to 1-4 in those games, and 1-4-5 in those periods.
Braswell came off the bench to record another double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Derrio Green also reached 17 points on 5-16 shooting. KJ Sherrill, who started instead of Braswell, scored 14 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. Briscoe was 3-7 from long range on his way to 13 points. Dewhurst scored five points, including a 3-pointer from the corner as part of the Niners’ charge to end regulation. Phil Jones’ absence was once agin felt, with two players of the frontcourt fouling out, An’Juan Wilderness and Braswell.
Today, as sour as the taste the game left behind was, inspired confidence for this group of players. They are closer to being a good, possibly great, team than one would assume from first glance. Some, or just any, breathing room on the depth chart would make a huge difference in the five overtime games this season, along with the number of other close games the 49ers have found themselves in. The Niners will next take the court at 7pm Wednesday when they host the Dayton Flyers, who, by the way, have never won in Halton Arena and are 2-4 on the road in the Atlantic 10.