CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Despite placing four players in double figures, the Charlotte 49ers fell 79-76 to Florida State, Saturday afternoon in front of a packed crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena.
"That was a hard-fought game," Charlotte coach Alan Major said. "I give a lot of credit to Coach Hamilton and I thought they came out in the second half, set the tone and we got a little bit away from our blueprint defensively. And that's the lesson we made to the kids in the locker room. It's kind of a life lesson. Just always be who you are. And that's the one thing I thought for about 10-to-12 minutes of the second half we didn't get a whole lot of traction on defense. I love the way we fought. When you are down nine with five minutes to go, it's close-out time when you are on the down side of that. The guys fought hard, were positive in timeouts and they stayed with each other. I want to give some credit to Ivan Benkovic. This kid doesn't go in for the whole game and I sub him in to shoot it. And he passes to an open guy for a three. It's amazing when kids try to do the right thing. It's all you want in coaching. You want guys that do the right thing. It's a tough loss but something we can learn from, and to be honest, I'm probably more encouraged with this group. We got off the map and for pockets of the game we weren't who we were and we still had a shot to tie it."
The Niners (11-2) and the Seminoles (7-4) put on an exciting show that lasted from start to finish. However it was the final seconds that proved to be the most electrifying. The Niners trailed the entire second half but their fighting spirit never ended. With just 55 seconds remaining, DeMario Mayfield drove to the basket for a layup that rolled around the rim for a few seconds before tipping in for the basket. Mayfield was fouled and converted the three-point play to slice Florida State's lead to 73-71.
The excitement didn't end there. FSU scored its next three buckets off trips to the free throw line to up the Niners 76-71 but a fastbreak layup from Mayfield with 14 seconds left cut FSU's lead to 76-73. After the Seminoles capitalized off a pair of free throws, E. Victor Nickerson hit a huge 3-pointer with six seconds left, to cut the Seminoles lead to 78-76. After sending FSU to the charity stripe where they hit one free throw with three seconds in the game, the Niners Ivan Benkovic's three hit the front of the rim at the buzzer.
The Seminoles opened the second half with a 17-5 run to take the 52-45 lead with 14:09 remaining in the game. Charlotte answered with a 7-1 run topped with a Braswell 3-pointer to cut FSU's lead to 53-52 with 11:31 left. FSU took its largest lead, 68-59 at the 5:34 mark.
Chris Braswell had a big day for the 49ers, coming off the bench and leading them with 20 points, just one point shy of tying his season-high. Braswell matched his career-high in three-pointers with three against FSU. Braswell recorded his eighth double-figure outing of the season and 64th of his career.
Mayfield finished with 16 points off the bench for his seventh double-figure scoring game of the year. Terrence Williams also added 11 points. Willie Clayton was the only player on either roster to record a double-double. Clayton tallied 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double game of the season.
Charlotte took a 34-29 advantage in rebounds but committed 17 turnovers.
The first half lived up to its hype, in a grueling, intensive half that gave the Niners the 40-35 advantage at halftime. Charlotte kept its composure as the Seminoles opened the game with a quick basket by responding with a 3-pointer from Denzel Ingram with 18:30 left. The game went back and forth as the half featured five ties and nine lead changes. Mayfield hit a 3-pointer at the 13:43 mark to give the 49ers the 12-10 advantage. The game was tied 15-15 with 10:44 remaining until FSU used a 7-2 run sparked by a Snaer 3-pointer to take a 22-17 lead, it's largest of the half with 8:34 left. However, Charlotte's firepower rebooted and a jumper from Pierria Henry along with a 3-pointer from Braswell gave the Niners its first lead in over six minutes, 27-26 at the 5:31 mark.
The Niners kept it going with a powerful 16-4 run and extended their lead to 40-33 with 32 seconds left.
The half featured 10 3-pointers, five from each team. Charlotte shot 14-for-30 (46.7%) from the field. Florida State was 11-for-29 (37.9%) from the field and 5-for-12 (41.7 %) from behind the arc.
FSU was led by Snaer who led all players with 30 points. Also recording double figures in scoring for the Seminoles was Aaron Thomas with 17 points and Okaro White with 10.
Charlotte returns to action when it hosts UNC Asheville on January 2 at Halton Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.