No DeMario Mayfield and Darion Clark for the Charlotte 49ers? No problem. Minus their leading scorer and one of their freshmen, the Niners topped UMass, 65-64 on Homecoming, in a key Atlantic 10 battle between two teams with similar NCAA resumes. It brings Charlotte’s record to 17-4 (5-2 Atlantic 10), with UMass falling to 14-6 (4-3).
This game was chippy in the first half, but it ended with the Niners taking a 34-31 lead–all this despite a big first half by Terrell Vinson (15 points). And when it looked like they would put this one away (52-44 with 10:32 left following a Willie Clayton slam and ensuing technical), back came the Musketeers. With 4:59 left, it was 58-57 after a Freddie Riley 3. Later, Vinson nailed a three to tie the game at 63 with 2:22 left. But this one would come down to free throws–E. Victor Nickerson put Charlotte ahead 65-63 with 1:16 left, followed a little later by Willie Clayton making one of two to make it a 66-63 margin.
UMass had a shot late with Chaz Williams’ layup with 18 seconds left to pull his team within 66-65. E. Victor Nickerson was fouled but missed both free throws, giving the Musketeers an opportunity to get the victory. But the play of the game, Pierria Henry swiping the ball away from Williams in the lane with four seconds left, sealed it for the home team. Charlotte’s season-long nemesis–free throws–almost caused them to cough the game away.
Only two Niners got into double figures–Nickerson with 12 (5-11 shooting from the floor) and Ivan Benkovic with 10 (aided by his three 3 pointers).
The toughest stretch of the season begins on Wednesday when the Niners visit Temple.
NOTE: Chris Braswell did appear in the game but did not start for disciplinary reason. No word whether or not it was related to Mayfield’s violations.