It was a banner night at Halton Arena. However, it wasn't for the Charlotte 49ers. Kevin Anderson scored his 2,000th career point as part of a 20-point performance and moved to 4-0 all-time at Halton as Richmond thwarted a late second half Charlotte surge, winning 72-59.
Richmond got off to a quick start behind two early baskets by 6-9 senior center Dan Geriot and led 6-4 at the under 16 media timeout. Geriot and the Spiders continued to impose their will on Charlotte as senior Justin Harper knocked down a deep 3-pointer, followed by a smooth fade-away jumper to make the score 14-8 early on.
The Niners entered Saturday's contest with the most turnovers in the A-10 as well as well as the worst assist-to-turnover ratio. Things didn't get any better to start for Charlotte as they turned it over four times in the first five minutes.
Harper continued his domination of the 49ers with two more fadeaway jumpers, an easy layup and a heat-sinking missile-like block of a Jamar Briscoe layup attempt. When the first half was over, Harper had done plenty of damage to Charlotte's ego. The Richmond native scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and notched seven rebounds over the first 20 minutes.
Charlotte's constant turnover problems also led to Richmond's 10-point halftime lead, 34-24.
The 49ers started the second half on a tear, helped in large-part from an unlikely source. Known primarily as a defender instead of a scorer, senior An'Juan Wilderness came out firing in the second half. Wilderness scored nine of Charlotte's first 12 points as part of a 12-5 run to bring the score to 39-36 early in the last 20 minutes.
After trading buckets over the next seven minutes, Charlotte once again got a key basket from an unlikely source. Six-foot-nine power forward Chris Braswell found himself wide open at the top of the key, ball in hand and drained a trifecta as if it was second nature.
Braswell's first 3-pointer of the game brought the score to 55-52, but that's as close as Charlotte would get.
The 49ers had a chance to tie the game or get within one, but a costly turnover led to a fast-break layup by Anderson, the 2,001st point of his illustrious career. That layup seemed to spark Richmond, as the Spiders outscored Charlotte 15-7 over the final minutes to send Charlotte to its sixth straight loss.
"Really happy with the way we battled back," Charlotte coach Alan Major said. "We cut it to three right there but then had a turnover and they went back down and converted. Such a fine-line conference-this league-this is another example tonight."
The Niners had three players in double-figures, led by Wilderness' 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, 6-of-7 in the second half. Derrio Green's minutes also continued to decrease, as the junior guard saw only 13 minutes of action, scoring five points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Harper finished with 22 points and seven rebounds for the Spiders, who face Saint Joseph's on Wednesday. Another telling stat came at the charity stripe, as Charlotte went just 6-of-12 (50 percent) while Richmond was 19-of-19.
"Justin's a great player," Richmond Head Coach Chris Mooney said. "I thought the first half was a display of everything he can do. A couple of beautiful post moves, a follow-up basket, a 3-point shot. His rebounding was great, he blocked a shot which was kind of a highlight-reel type block. He's got tremendous confidence right now."
With Saint Joseph's beating St. Bonaventure on Saturday, the Hawks now have three conference wins, one more than Charlotte.
The 49ers play at Xavier on Wednesday while the Hawks match up with Richmond on the same night, so it certainly appears that Charlotte and the Hawks will meet next Saturday with a trip to the A-10 Tournament on the line.