While it looked like free throws would spell the demise of the Charlotte 49ers against the ETSU Buccaneers, it turned out to be their saving grace in the end.
Pierria Henry nailed four straight free throws in the clutch, and the Niners held off the visitors 80-75 in Halton Arena to open the season with a win.
It was the Mike Thorne show in the first half as the redshirt sophomore gave the fans a glimpse of what he can do. He was perfect from the field (6-6) in the opening 20 minutes while recording five boards. Pierria Henry was his usual self, notching five first-half steals.
The second half was a bit more of a struggle. The Buccaneers continued to consistently chip away at the lead, eventually cutting it to 62-59 with 6:52 left and to 73-70 with 1:52 remaining, then to two, 76-74 with under a minute remaining after a pair of missed free throws by Terrence Williams, and finally to one, 76-75, after a one-for-two trip to the line by Lukas Podersis. But Henry nailed a pair of free throws to get it to 78-75 with 5.5 left in the half, then iced it with two more with 1.1 left for the game’s final tally.
Thorne and Henry each had 17 to lead the Niners, two of four Charlotte players to hit double digits. But the performance of the night belonged to Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, who fouled out with 31 points on 10-16 shooting from the field and 4-6 from behind the arc.
The 1-0 Niners head to College of Charleston Tuesday at 7 pm.
WBB: Niners 66, Liberty 56
Tenacious defense helped the Niners to an opening night win over the Lady Flames. Charlotte forced their visitors into 30 miscues while scoring 28 points off of Liberty’s mishandles.
It was a nice outing for Tori Carter, who led all scorers with 14 points; Gabby Tyler chipped in 13. The Flames did out-rebound the Niners 31-27 and shot 5-7 from beyond the arc to keep it close, but the home team simply had more firepower in the end.
Lefty Webster scored seven points on 4-4 free throw shooting in her collegiate debut; classmate Ciara Gregory dropped four. Hillary Sigmon struggled to seven points on 2-9 shooting from the field (1-6 from three).
Charlotte hops on a plane to take on Kansas State Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm ET.