With the road being unkind to them over the course of their Atlantic 10 season, and in the middle of a two-game losing streak, the Charlotte 49ers desperately needed a signature win with six games remaining on the schedule after tonight.
That’s been taken care of.
The Niners (18-6, 6-4 A-10) received a huge boost to their NCAA tournament resume, knocking off #11 Butler 71-67 at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday night.
This one wasn’t easy, though. Despite a 59-49 lead with 3:30 left, the Niners saw it begin to shrink–thanks to a suddenly red-hot Rotnei Clarke coupled with missed free throws on the other end by Charlotte–ultimately to 69-67 with 3.1 left.
But there was no Hinkle Magic to be found on this night.
An inbound pass by the Bulldogs (20-5, 7-3 A-10) on a potentially game-winning possession was stolen by E. Victor Nickerson. The sophomore was fouled with .7 seconds left and made both free throws to ice the game away and give Charlotte its first win over a ranked team since December 17, 2010: a 49-48 win over #7 Tennessee at Time Warner Cable Arena. It also handed the Bulldogs their first loss in 13 games this season.
Clarke finished with 18 points, but 15 of those points came in the final 3:24 as he went 4-5 from beyond the arc and 3-3 from the line after being fouled by Terrance Williams on a 3-point attempt. Roosevelt Jones scored 17 points and hauled down 9 rebounds; Erik Fromm put up 13.
For Charlotte, Pierria Henry turned in a strong performance with 17 points of his own on 6-12 shooting along with four steals and four rebounds. Chris Braswell put up 11 while Darion Clark had one of his best games as a Niner, scoring ten points, registering nine rebounds and establishing a strong presence inside. Willie Clayton found himself in foul trouble but ended up with 11 points of his own.
Another big game is upcoming for the Niners: at Saint Louis on Saturday night.
Women’s Basketball: Charlotte 59, Butler 49
The women pulled off a come from behind win at Halton Arena, dropping the Bulldogs to improve to 8-1 in the A-10. Jennifer Hailey had yet another double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) on her way to becoming the fourth player in program history with 1,000 rebounds. Amanda Dowe (13 points, 14 rebounds) registered another double-double of her own, while Ny Hammonds scored 15. Charlotte hosts George Washington Sunday afternoon.