San Juan, Puerto Rico – Behind six double-figure scorers and ten three-point field goals, the Charlotte 49ers (4-1) defeated Northeastern (2-3), 86-77, to advance to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship game.
“Another hard fought game,” Charlotte coach Alan Major said. “These guys have really embraced the idea the farther away you get from home, the closer you’ve got to stay together. We told them Northeastern doesn’t go away. I mean, talk about a well-coached team. We knew that from last year playing them in Alaska. They just keep coming at you. It got sticky that in the second half and we didn’t come out with quite the pop that we did to start the game. The guys kind of re-energized themselves.”
Shawn Lester led the 49ers with 20 points. Ben Cherry scored 18 points on six three-point field goals. He knocked down his first four threes. Terrence Williams scored 13 points. Pierria Henry scored 11 points including going 9-for-12 from the line in the second half. Mike Thorne scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Willie Clayton scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Charlotte knocked down a season-high 10 three-point field goals. Cherry went six-for-seven from beyond the three-point line. Lester went three-for-five from three.
“I’ve been watching my teammates shoot it well during the beginning of the season, so I’ve been trying to rub their hands trying to get some of that magic,” Cherry said. “I just wanted one to fall. Definitely seeing them knock down shots, it’s like OK, it can happen, it should happen. It was definitely nice to have a few go in today.”
The 49ers behind the hot shooting of Cherry began the game by scoring 18 of the first 26 points taking an 18-8 lead when Clayton scores inside with 13:28 on the clock. Charlotte pushed their lead to 23-10 when Lester connected on a free throw with 9:27 on the clock.
Charlotte maintained a lead of 8-13 points for the next five minutes until with 4:41 on the clock, Northeastern went on an 8-0 run cutting Charlotte’s lead to 34-29 with 2:36 left in the first half.
The 49ers behind the scoring of Denzel Ingram, Lester and another three by Cherry pushed Charlotte’s lead to 41-30 with 1:18 on the clock. Northeastern cut Charlotte’s lead to seven points but a jump shot from the corner by Williams at the buzzer gave the 49ers a 43-34 halftime lead.
Over the first seven and half minutes of the second half, Northeastern outscored the 49ers 17-10 tying the score at 51 with 12:31 on the clock. Lester knocked down a big three just 45 seconds later helping the 49ers regain the lead.
Northeastern tied the score a couple of times over the next four minutes. With the game tied at 58 with 8:47 on the clock, Charlotte took control of the game with a 7-0 run behind the scoring of Ingram, Henry and a three from the top of the key by Williams. After Williams knocked down a three, the 49ers led 65-58 with 5:50 on the clock.
After the game was tied at 58, the 49ers outscored Northeastern 28-19 over the final 8:47 to advance to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with an 86-77 win over Northeastern.
Charlotte advances to play 14th-ranked Michigan in the Championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Sunday, November 24 at 6:30 pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.