Birmingham, Ala. – Three Niners scored in double-figures led by Jon Davis’ season-high 27 points as Charlotte (14-18) defeated Rice (12-20), 79-69, to advance to the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament.
“We knew coming into this game it is always a challenge to beat a team three times,” Charlotte coach Mark Price said. “I thought it was one of better defensive performances in the first half. Our guys were really locked in and focused. You have to give Rice credit in the second half they started attacking and getting the free throw line. Rice’s Marcus Evans is a very good player who tried to take the game over for them. We got down one but we regrouped. Jon made some big plays down the stretch. Overall this was a great team win.”
Davis connected on a career-high 11 free throws on his way to a season-high 27 points. Davis has now recorded five 20-point scoring games and 16 double-figure scoring games this season. Braxton Ogbueze knocked down four three-point field goals on his way to 19 points which marked his 22nd double-figure scoring game of the season. Joseph Uchebo recorded his 17th double-double of the season with 12 points and a Conference USA Tournament record 18 rebounds. Anthony Vanhook scored eight points off the bench. Curran Scott dished out a season-high eight assists.
Marcus Evans led three Rice players in double-figures with 27 points. Egor Koulechov recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Just over four minutes into the game, Rice had a 7-6 lead then the 49ers went on a 15-0 run over the next four minutes taking a 21-7 lead when Vanhook scored inside with 11:43 on the clock. Davis and Ogbueze each scored five during the run. Andrien White also connected on a three during the run.
Then, Rice answered the 49ers run with an 11-0 run over the next three minutes cutting Charlotte’s lead to 21-18 when Koulechov knocked down a three at the 8:33 mark.
Charlotte scored nine straight points pushing their lead back to double-figures, 30-18, when Uchebo scored inside with 5:30 on the clock.
The 49ers maintained a double-figures lead for the majority of the rest of the first half. Cameron Pappas gave the 49ers a 39-25 halftime lead when he connected on a free throw with two seconds left in the half.
Charlotte pushed their lead to 44-29 when Davis connected on two free throws just over a minute into the second half.
Rice scored 13 of the next 16 points cutting the 49ers lead to 47-42 when Max Guercy knocked down a three with 15:15 on the clock.
With the 49ers leading 57-48 with 10:06 on the clock, Rice went on a 10-0 run taking a 58-57 lead when Evans scored inside with 8:17 on the clock. Charlotte regained the lead with four straight points from Davis.
Baskets by Evans and Guercy tied the score for the third time at 61 with just under six minutes left in the second half. Charlotte’s Scott knocked down two free throws with 5:34 on the clock which gave the 49ers lead for good, 63-61. Charlotte connected on eight free throws in the final minute to close out the victory.
With the win, the 49ers advance to face second-seed Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA Tournament Quarterfinals, Thursday, March 10 at 7 pm. The game will broadcast nationally by the American Sports Network.