Sophomore Denzel Ingram, in his first game following injury, delivered the final blow with a late three-pointer as the 49ers knocked off the Big 12's Kansas State, 68-61 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Charlotte (3-1) will advance to the Tip-Off semifinals against either Georgetown or Northeastern, Friday at 2:30 on ESPN2.
Five 49ers scored in double figures and big men Mike Thorne and Willie Clayton both posted double-doubles to carry the 49ers to the hard-fought win. Thorne led the 49ers with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Ingram added 12 points and Clayton, who added 10 rebounds, was one of three 49ers with 10 points.
Tied at halftime, Charlotte built a 13-point second half lead on Shawn Lester's layup with 11:33 left to play.
The Wildcats whittled away at the lead in the final 10 minutes. Clayton fouled out with five minutes to play as Kansas State cut the lead to two, 54-52. Thorne fouled out two minutes later as Kansas State hung within three points, 56-53 on a Shane Southwell foul shot with 3:23 to play.
On the 49ers next possession, however, point guard Pierria Henry drove into the lane and kicked to an open Ingram, who drained his second three-pointer of the game to give Charlotte a six-point cushion, 59-53 with 2:51 left to play. After a Wildcat missed three, Henry found Terrence Williams underneath and Charlotte's lead was back up to eight, 61-53 with 2:09 left. The Wildcats (2-2) would get no closer than six the rest of the way as Ingram and Henry combined to convert six straight free throws in the final 40 seconds.
Henry finished with 10 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, a block and three steals. Lester added 10 points and five rebounds.
Charlotte outrebounded Kansas State, 46-34 and held the Wildcats to .373 shooting, including .192 (5-of-26) from behind the arc. Charlotte hit 14-of-18 free throws in the second half.
Nigel Johnson came off the bench to lead Kansas State with 14 points while Southwell and Marcus Foster scored 11.
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