Charlotte outlasts South Carolina 65-63
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) Pierria Henry knew Charlotte wouldn’t give up against South Carolina, not after what the team had already been through at the Charleston Classic.
The 49ers, down 14 points in the opening half, rallied past the Gamecocks 65-63 to reach the finals of the eight-team tournament. Mike Thorne made two foul shots with 1:10 left for the winning points, then Charlotte endured a crazy finish of turnovers, missed shots and reversed calls.
In the end, South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell missed a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left and the 49ers (3-0) won their eighth straight regular-season tournament game. This latest victory followed a double-overtime effort on Thursday night when Charlotte lost a 17-point lead in the second half, yet prevailed in extra time.
Henry said that showing bonded the players and proved to them what they could achieve, no matter the deficit.
”It gave us a lot of hope, a lot of faith in our own program and a belief that we could overcome anything,” Henry said.
They’ll need that Sunday night when they face Miami (4-0), which ended No. 8 Florida’s 33-game home win streak Monday night before rolling to a pair of 20-point wins at TD Arena.
Braxton Ogbueze had 12 of his 14 points in the second half for the 49ers, who’ll face Miami for the tournament title Sunday night.
Thornwell led the Gamecocks (2-2) with 20 points, only two of those in the second half.
Henry had 12 points for Charlotte, Willie Clayton 11 and Thorne 10.
Clayton said the team has had success playing well early, contributing to their stellar run in early tournaments. ”I hope that we can take that and carry it all the way down through the season,” he said.
Thorne had a chance to ice the game with two more free throws with 14 seconds left but missed them both. Charlotte was originally ruled to have rebounded Thorne’s second miss, but officials reversed the call after looking at replays to set up the final moments.
South Carolina had to inbound three times – Charlotte had just five fouls – and Marcus Stroman was tied up on a drive. The Gamecocks inbounded it to Thornwell for one final attempt.
Thornwell as just 1 of 9 shooting in the second half.
Gamecocks’ coach Frank Martin said the game turned at the start of the second half when Charlotte picked up its play. ”They came out in the second half and imposed their will,” he said. ”’Here’s the ball. I’m taking it to the rim. Good luck.”’
The Gamecocks reached the finals here five years ago before losing to champion Miami. Charlotte has been a monster in these in-season events, winning the Great Alaska Shootout two years ago and the Puerto Rico Tip-Off event last season.
Martin quipped after his team’s easy, 69-45 win over Cornell that he hoped the 49ers were ”really tired” following their opening win.
It looked that way early on as South Carolina hit seven of its first nine shots and built a 32-18 lead on Thornwell’s bucket with 5:21 left. That’s when Charlotte finished with an 11-4 run to the break with reserve Ivan Benkovic scoring 5 points.
TIRED? FROM WHAT?
Charlotte associate head coach Ryan Odom asked Henry and Willie Clayton after Thursday night’s game how tired they were in the contest. That’s because both starters fouled out in regulation and were not around for the two extra periods.
Martin wondered where the Gamecocks foul shooting opportunities went. South Carolina took just three free throws in the second half and nine for the game, half as many as Charlotte’s 19.
Charlotte: The 49ers are seeking their 19th all-time title in regular season tournaments.
South Carolina: Martin’s not afraid to turn his team over to a freshman. First-year point guard Marcus Stroman has played at least 25 minutes a game in South Carolina’s first three contests. He’s averaged seven points, four assists and just one turnover.
Charlotte will play Miami in the championship game at the Charleston Classic on Sunday.
South Carolina will play Akron in the third-place game at the Charleston Classic on Sunday.