HALTON ARENA - Sophomore Terrence Williams' second-half explosion helped propel the Charlotte 49ers (1-0) to a 68-58 win over Charleston Southern (0-1) in their men's basketball season-opener, Friday evening at Halton Arena.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Williams scored 17 points in the second half as the 49ers burst open a one-point halftime lead.
"I'm very happy with this win," said 49ers head coach Alan Major. "It was hard fought. It's always good to dig these out."
Williams didn't stop with scoring, though. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, eight in the second half, to record a double-double. Williams turned in an impressive 8-for-17 shooting performance from the field. He also dished out a game-high three assists in the victory.
"You're seeing the hard work he puts in," said 49ers point guard Pierria Henry of his roommate. "I like it when he's on the floor."
"I kept flashing to the high post and they'd back off so I got to drive the lane and complete the play," Williams said.
Sophomore E. Victor Nickerson also hit double figures, adding 11 points for the 49ers. Nickerson scored seven points to key a 15-0 run that gave Charlotte a 20-15 first half lead. Nickerson added six rebounds, a block and an assist. Henry scored 10 points and recorded a game-high five steals. Freshman Wille Clayton finished with eight points and two blocks.
Freshman Darion Clark was big on the glass for the Niners, grabbing a team-leading 11 boards. He also finished with two blocks.
The 49ers led 24-23 at the half but Charleston Southern quickly took a 29-26 second half lead. Back-to-back layups from Clark and five straight points for Henry pushed the 49ers back in the lead, 34-29 with 16:03 to play. A turnaround corner three from senior Colby Lewis gave Charlotte a 13-point lead, 46-33 and a Williams layup pushed the lead to 15 with 13:34 to play.
Charleston Southern would get as close as seven before the 49ers pushed the lead as high as 18, 63-45 with 5:31 to play.
Charlotte's defense held Charleston Southern to a 19-for-65 (.292) shooting from the field. The Niners took advantage in the paint, outscoring CSU 36-18. Charlotte also scored 19 points off 12 CSU turnovers.
The Niners controlled most of the second half and took their largest lead of the game with a 63-45 advantage over the Buccaneers with 5:31 remaining.
After trailing 15-6 with 14:09 remaining in the first half, the 49ers sparked a 10-1 run during a 10 minute span to take the 20-18 lead over the Buccaneers. A pair of free throws from Nickerson got the Niners going as Mike Thorne contributed with a bucket in the paint and Denzel Ingram added a 3-pointer. Nickerson also hit a 3-pointer in the stretch and scored seven points in the run.
Mathiang Muo halted the Niners' run with a 3-pointer to close in on their lead. Thorne responded by knocking down a jumper but a long 3-pointer from Arlon Harper allowed Charleston Southern to tie the game 22-22 with 2:22 left. Charlotte took the 24-23 lead at halftime.
CSU placed two players in double-digits in scoring. Saah Nimley led Charleston Southern with a game-high 20 points and Harper finished with 12.
Seven of the eight 49ers that played were freshmen or sophomores. The 49ers were playing without upperclassmen Chris Braswell, DeMario Mayfield and JT Thompson. Braswell and Mayfield missed the game due to suspensions for violations of team rules while Thompson is nursing an injury.
"Our young guys, it's almost as if we're throwing them in the deep end," Major said. "They're going to flail around and stuff, but they're going to learn how to swim."
Charlotte will host Georgia Southern on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 9 p.m. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
Mayfield will serve the final game of his two-game suspension, Tuesday. Braswell will return and Thompson is expected to return.