Late mistakes cost Charlotte 49ers shot at another victory
Charlotte’s 73-66 loss Saturday to North Texas at Halton Arena was another study in late-game frustration for the 49ers.
For a third consecutive game, the youthful 49ers (5-17, 2-9) were in position to potentially claim a rare victory, this time against one of Conference USA’s top teams in North Texas (19-4, 7-3). But – as in close defeats Thursday against Rice and the previous Saturday against Texas-El Paso – Charlotte fell short.
This time, the 49ers committed two key turnovers late and with the outcome still very much in doubt.
Trailing 67-66, fresh- man guard Cooper Robb, who had an otherwise stellar game, threw an ill-advised pass to senior guard Jon Davis. North Texas’ Ryan Woolridge intercepted and converted a fast-break layup for a 69-66 Mean Green lead with 1 minute, 8 seconds left.
On Charlotte’s next possession, the 49ers turned it over again, this time on a back-court violation. And, again, North Texas converted, this time on a dunk by Michael Miller with 26 seconds left.
That made it 71-66 and ended any hopes the 49ers had.
The 49ers actually led for most of the game (25:03) and were ahead 34-32 at halftime. They didn’t trail at all in the first half and led by eight points when freshman Malik Martin hit a 3-pointer with 4:17 left to make it 29-21. That capped a 13-6 run during which Martin scored nine points.
The Mean Green answered with an 8-0 run to tie it 29-29 on a 3-pointer by Umoja Smart with 1:11 left in the half. But the 49ers outscored North Texas 5-3 late and led 34-32 at halftime.
THREE WHO MATTERED
Davis, Charlotte: Scored 25 points, the 15th time this season he has had 20-plus points in a game. The last Charlotte player to scored 20 or more points in at least 15 games in a season was Leemire Goldwire in 2007-08. Davis’ last basket came with 12:28 left.
Roosevelt Smart, North Texas: Mean Green guard scored 19 points with 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.
Robb, Charlotte: 49ers’ 6-foot-1 freshman guard scored five points, but he had career highs in rebounds (10) and assists (six).
Charlotte will play again Thursday at Middle Tennessee. North Texas will face Marshall at home Thursday.
The 49ers got some impressive hustle early in the game from forward Milos Supica, who ran down missed shots to keep two Charlotte possessions alive.
Charlotte had assists on each of its 12 made baskets in the first half and finished with 18 assists on 23 baskets. Much of that efficiency was negated by 16 turnovers, which North Texas turned into 22 points.
North Texas entered the game as the only team in the nation with six players averaging in doublefigure scoring. Only two Mean Green players – Smart and Gibson (19 each) – were in double figures against Charlotte.
Martin started for the first time since returning from a four-games absence because of an ankle injury. Martin had been a reserve for Charlotte in the previous six games.
THEY SAID IT
“This one is definitely going to hurt because we kind of gave it away. You have to be intentional about the little things.” – 49ers coach Ron Sanchez.
“We’re all learning as we go. Every game is something we can learn from, no matter the circumstance.” – Robb.
“How about Cooper with 10 rebounds? We’re going to start calling him ‘little big man.’ ” – Sanchez.
Charlotte 49ers freshman guard Malik Martin, left, charges into North Texas’ Roosevelt Smart during Saturday’s Conference USA men’s basketball game at Halton Arena. North Texas won73-66.