The Charlotte 49ers earned their 12th victory of the season with a 71-63 overtime victory over the visiting UNC Asheville Bulldogs in their last non-conference game of the season on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs (6-8) entered the contest winners of their past three.
Coming off a ten-day break the 49ers came were sluggish out of the gate against a slightly more invigorated Bulldogs squad who were only three days removed from a 95-66 drubbing of Bluefield College.
Chris Braswell earned his way back into the starting lineup coming off a 20 point game against Florida State.
Willie Clayton, who was coming off of his second double-double of the season, shot eight times in 13 first half minutes. He missed five shots, which consisted mainly of layups. He'd bounce back in the second half to earn another double-double with 16 rebounds and 16 points.
"Post players have to establish the game and then everyone goes around it," said Pierria Henry on Clayton afterwards.
Mike Thorne made a scoreless 4-minute appearance while J.T. Thompson sat for the entirety of the game. Coach Major eluded that Thompson is still rehabilitating a knee injury and is just now getting back to practicing regularly.
With 11:08 to play in the first half, the 49ers finally showed some life. After a missed Will Weeks layup, Henry drove down for a dunk which was immediately followed by an offensive foul on D.J. Cunningham to give the ball back to the 49ers.
The Bulldogs 3-2 zone forced Major to bring in freshman Ivan Benkovic with 7:29 remaining in the first half. Benkovic missed his lone three-pointer and did not return after five minutes of action.
The teams went into the locker room tied at 25. Both teams struggled from the field as they shot a collective 30 percent in the half. It was the second-lowest scoring half for the 49ers this season, with the lowest being 24 against Charleston Southern in the season opener.
The second half began much like the first with minute-long breaks in between baskets. The game featured 13 ties and nine lead changes.
Freshman Denzel Ingram's 3-pointer at the four minute mark gave the 49ers their largest lead during regulation, a 54-46 advantage.
However, the Bulldogs rallied back with a 10-2 run to tie the game with one minute remaining in regulation.
A 49ers shot clock violation gave the Bulldogs the final possession of regulation with 24 seconds left. Keith Hornsby and Trent Meyer both missed 3-pointers as time expired to push the game into overtime.
The only thing the 49ers lost in overtime was the tip, as they dominated from that point forward. Clayton, Henry, and DeMario Mayfield spurred an 11-0 run to begin the OT period that put the Bulldogs away.
The 49ers attempted 15 of their 34 foul shots in the OT period, where they converted 11 of them.
A stout 49ers defense forced the Bulldogs to shoot 20 percent (2-10) from the field in OT.
The Bulldogs entered the game shooting 46 percent from the field. They only shot 30 percent against the 49ers. Bulldogs Head Coach Eddie Biedenbach attributed his team's shooting woes to the 49ers physicality. "We didn't run offense very well because of the physical nature of the game," Biedenbach said. "It was poor a shooting night for us and it cost us the game."
"For us to hold them to 30 percent", said Major, "that's encouraging and I want the guys to say, 'we have that in us' and now when we get into conference we want to sustain that each and every night."
What changed for the 49ers in overtime?
"As a team we've been through a lot of dogfights and a lot of things haven't gone our way," said Henry. "We've seen both sides of it…wins and losses."
Jeremy Atkinson led the Bulldogs with 16 points and 13 rebounds while Hornsby added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Ingram added 16 points for the 49ers while Mayfield scored 15 of the 20 bench points.
The 49ers return to the hardwood in six days as they open up Atlantic 10 play against the La Salle Explorers in Halton Arena.