It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy but it felt good. Charlotte went on the road to play a (kinda) touted St. Joseph’s team and outlasted them in a low-scoring defensive affair, taking a 57-52 win.
All those early season road games paid dividends today when Charlotte (9-5, 2-0 A10) had to comeback from a late 45-50 deficit to Saint Joseph’s (11-5, 1-1 A10) after coughing up a lead that reached 13 points in the 1st-half. When it came time to make plays to win the game, the Niners went hard and the Hawks went cold.
The early stages of the game featured four lead changes during the first seven minutes. Deuce Briscoe’s 8-0 run against the Hawks, including his 1000th career point in D-1, broke open a 13-12 game. The Niners continued to flex their collective muscle, taking a 13-point lead with 4:38 left when Pierria Henry converted a steal into a fast-break layup. St. Joe’s responded aptly with an 8-2 run to close the half and went into the break with Charlotte up 31-24 at Hagan Arena.
After the break, Charlotte built the advantage back up to ten, leading 36-26, before the Hawks’ wheels finally found traction. Carl Jones scored eight during a 12-0 Hawks’ run that put them up 38-36 with 13:16 remaining in the contest. Two Terrence Williams free throws tied it back up at 38 before Saint Joseph’s outscored Charlotte 12-7 over the next eight minutes, establishing a 50-45 lead with 4:31 remaining.
This is when Charlotte woke up; Javarris Barnett cut it down to a two-point margin with a 3-pointer from the wing. A jumper each from Briscoe and Henry tied the Niners with the Hawks and gave them a two-point lead, respectively. DeMario Mayfield hit both of his free throws (Myself and the five others I was watching with erupted when this happened) to cap off a 9-0 run for Charlotte. The Niners hit 3/4 free throws in the final minute, the last two by Henry after a steal with 7 seconds left, as the Hawks continued to unsuccessfully heave 3-pointers at the rim. The 49ers closed with a 12-2 run to end the game, keeping Saint Joe’s from scoring a field goal over the last 6:36 of the game.
Defense was a huge part of this victory, as Charlotte held Saint Joe’s to 2/21 from behind the arc which is noteworthy considering the Hawks were shooting nearly 40% from 3-point range going into the game. Charlotte held the Hawks to 40.4% shooting from the field and kept a team that was averaging 74 PPG in the low 50′s.
“We thought their length was going to be a problem. We really wanted to pace the game,” said Saint Joseph’s Head Coach Phil Martelli, addressing Charlotte’s defensive prowess and intensity, “We don’t want to be in 50-point games, but you’re in the league and people have tape on you. We just didn’t go at them, they were very aggressive in their switches. We knew their length was going to be an issue and we allowed it to be an issue.”
Charlotte stole the ball 13 times, lead by Henry’s four pick-pockets.
“The guys did an outstanding job of staying with the gameplan, keeping track of their two best guys,” said Head Coach Alan Major after the game. Those two guys are Langston Galloway and Carl Jones, who average 35 PPG between them and were held to 20 today.
“The guys showed a maturity. We got our defense back down the stretch.”
The Niners aggressiveness paid off as Charlotte got to the line 22 times to Saint Joe’s seven (I had to spell that out because it was so low) but both teams shot under 60% from the line. Converting free throws is still a problem for Charlotte, and if they’re going to find themselves in close games it has to be fixed before it bites them. Very interesting difference in attempted free throws since the Hawks only out-fouled Charlotte 14-13. A lot of chippy reach-ins called on the perimeter, especially in the 2nd-half.
Henry and Briscoe led scoring for Charlotte, 11 points each. Henry converted 4/7 from the field and 2/4 from the line. Briscoe shot 5/12 and missed his only free throw in a 1-and-1 situation. Chris Braswell had nine points after going a terrible 2/11 from the field and turning it over five times, but making 5/7 from the line and hauled in seven boards. DeMario Mayfield led the Niners in rebounding and assists today with nine and three, respectively. Terrence Williams was able to pull down seven rebounds in just 16 minutes of play.
Looking forward, Charlotte goes to UMass on Wednesday, the site of Derrio Green’s best game as a Niner when he converted 8/16 3-pointers during the peak (you try putting a sad face inside parenthesis, not easy) of Charlotte’s run in 2010. The Minutemen play at La Salle on Sunday and the winner will be on top of the Atlantic 10 standings with Charlotte and Dayton, 2-0 records for the trio.