Charlotte, who was coming off an impressive win against Elon last week, took flight to Puerto Rico to compete in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Challenge, as they faced a tough Kansas State Wildcats in the first round.
In what was the first game of the tournament and an early tip-off, the Charlotte 49ers were able to get a hard fought victory over the Wildcats Thursday morning, winning 68-61 behind Mike Thorne, who had 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and also leading with 11 rebounds.
In what would be their toughest test so far this season, the 49ers opened up a double digit lead in the first half before holding on for the seven point victory.
The 49ers jumped out to a 20-8 lead in the first half with 10:07 left to go before the Wildcats crawled back into the game, eventually tying the game up at 30 at halftime.
Thorne scored the first seven points in the second half, as the 49ers took back the lead and never trailed in the second half, as they were able to lead by as many as 13 points with 11:35 to go.
Kansas State continued to battle back, cutting the 49er lead down to just two points with 4:21 to go, but Charlotte eventually outscored the Wildcats 14-9 down the stretch, hitting clutch free at the end.
The 49ers shot just fewer than 40 percent from the floor Thursday morning (39.3) and shot 69 percent from the free throw line (20 of 29). However, they were able to hold the Wildcats to 37.3 percent from the floor and 19 percent from behind the arc (5 of 26 from three).
The 49ers had five players in double digits, as Willie Clayton had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the game, while Denzel Ingram contributed 12 points and Pierria Henry and Shawn Lester each scored 10 points.
Henry was also able to dish out nine assists in the game, as they had 10 assists on 22 made baskets.
The 49ers were able to make just enough plays on both sides of the ball to come away with the win, as they were able to out-rebound the Wildcats 46-34 and 17-13 in offensive rebounds, while going to the charity strike 10 more times than Kansas State.
Nigel Johnson led the Wildcats in scoring with 14 points, while Marcus Foster and Shane Southwell were the other two Wildcats to score in double figures with 11 points.
Kansas State had some early foul trouble in the game, as they had two players foul out in the game, while three others had four fouls each.
This was the first game of the season that Charlotte was held to under 80 points in a game and this win ended the Wildcats two game win streak.
Now, the 49ers will face Northeastern, who was able to defeat Georgetown Thursday afternoon 63-56, after the Hoyas gave up an 11 point halftime lead.