No Willie Clayton and Mike Thorne for the Charlotte 49ers? No problem.
Denzel Ingram hit a big three, followed by a bucket with Terrence Williams with under 3 minutes remaining, and the Niners withstood a late rally to hold on for a 68-61 win over the Kansas State Wildcats in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Even without Clayton and Thorne, who both fouled out, the Niners were able to grind out a win. With his team up 56-53 with 2:55 left, Ingram nailed a three to extend it to 59-53–followed by a Williams layup off of a Will Spradling miss to put the lead at 61-53. Charlotte would then make seven of eight free throws down the stretch to seal the victory despite back-to-back threes by K-State.
Thorne enjoyed another solid outing. He was 6-12 for 16 points, including 4-5 from the line, while ripping down a game-high 11 rebounds. Clayton scored 10 behind a 6-11 day at the stripe but had 10 boards, six on the offensive glass. Three other Niners–Ingram (12), Shawn Lester (10) and Pierria Henry (10) hit double figures.
Nigel Johnson scored a team-high 14 while Shane Southwell and Marcus Foster each had 11 for K-State, who were ice cold from the outside (5-27) despite their late consecutive makes are were out rebounded 46-34.
The Niners move on to tomorrow’s semifinal as they await the winner of today’s Northeastern/Georgetown quarterfinal. The Niners defeated the Huskies 83-77 last year in the Great Alaska Shootout final.