The debut of new head coach Alan Major didn't go as planned as visiting Gardner Webb defeated the Charlotte 49ers 78-70 in a Friday afternoon matinee.
However, the biggest defections came via suspension as it was announced two hours before tip-off that Shamari Spears and An'Juan Wilderness would miss the game for unspecified disciplinary reasons.
Charlotte led 23-11 with 8:49 left to play in the first half and led 28-18 with 5:04 to play. Gardner Webb played closed strong due to foul trouble for the Niners, putting together a 12-2 run to tie the score with 1:52 to play.
"We were fine until we got into some foul trouble," Major said. "We need to continue to be tougher on the defensive end. We showed many flashes but we need to sustain it."
At the half the Niners only led by two, but pushed the lead to as much as six, 53-47, with 13:06 to play in the second half.
Gardner Webb then turned the tides and scored the next seven points of the game to take the lead. After a back and forth stretch, Gardner Webb took control in the final seven and a half minutes.
Fouls became an issue for the Niners as starting forward Chris Braswell picked up three personal's in the first half.
Then with 7:06 left to play in the game Braswell fouled out.
Charlotte had taken a 60-59 lead with 9:19 left on a 3-pointer from Jamar Briscoe. They did not score another basket until Derrio Green's layup with 2:02 to play.
It was a little to late for the comeback as they trailed by five, 69-64. Gardner Webb then capitalized with four straight free throws that put the game out of reach with 1:01 left in the game.
The Bulldogs (1-0) shot 63 percent in the second half and hit 3-of-6 second half threes. Charlotte (0-1) meanwhile shot just 29 percent in the second half, hitting 5-of-22 3-point attempts.
"We were fine until we got into foul trouble," Major noted. "Our defense dropped off and that's what usually leads to fouls."
The loss on the night ruined the debut for Major, but also for Briscoe, who scored 30 points in his first game as a Niner. He hit 9-of-17 shots, including 4-of-6 3-pointers and added eight free throws. He also added three assists and three steals.
He was joined in double figures by teammate Derrio Green, who scored 16 points with six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Green couldn't convert from behind the line as he only knocked down 1-of-12 3-pointers.
Walk-on sophomore Colby Lewis broke out of his shell and played a career high 23 minutes recording eight points and five rebounds.
Charlotte shot 33 percent for the game while Gardner Webb hit 48 percent of their shots.
Charlotte must put this setback behind them quickly because South Carolina State comes to the Queen City tomorrow in the night cap of a double header with the women's basketball team who hosts Iona in Halton Arena. Game time scheduled for 7:30 p.m.