Charlotte 49ers sophomore Derrio Green scored a career high of 31 points but it wasn't enough as No. 20 Georgia Tech defeated the Niners 76-67 in a battle of schools from the Atlantic 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday night.
While the Yellow Jackets did not have an answer for Green the Niners had no answer for junior forward Gani Lawal who led the Yellow Jackets (11-2) with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
The Niners (10-3) jumped out to a 6-2 lead behind 3-pointers from Dijuan Harris and Green. The Yellow Jackets responded with a 17-2 run over the next 6:12 of play.
Trailing 21-11 with 9:20 remaining in the half the Niners used a 8-2 run to pull within four. They were not able to take the lead though thanks to turnovers. Coming into the game the Niners were averaging 12.9 turnovers a game and they had 12 turnovers in the first half which resulted in 17 Yellow Jacket points.
Seven steals by the Yellow Jackets enabled them to get out in transition and they scored 10 fast break points in the first half as opposed to zero for the Niners.
"Our inability to take care of the ball in the first half was huge," said Niner Head Coach Bobby Lutz. "They're a good team and they took advantage of that."
With a 37-29 lead the Yellow Jackets came out on a tear in the second half. Zachery Peacock converted a 3-point play off of an offensive rebound which gave the Yellow Jackets a 46-31 lead with 15:15 left in the game. It was the largest lead of the night for the Yellow Jackets but the Niners stormed back behind Green.
An'Juan Wilderness converted one of two free throws to cut the Yellow Jackets lead to 13 with 12:28 to play. Trailing 50-37 Green exploded as he scored 18 of the next 20 Niner points which included a six point possession thanks to an off the ball foul from the Yellow Jackets on Phil Jones. He capped his run with a lay-up and the Niners trailed 61-57 with 5:38 remaining in the game.
Wilderness would cut the deficit to two on the next Niner possession with a driving reverse lay-up which was countered by a Lawal basket to put the Yellow Jackets up 63-59 with 5:03 to play. Chris Braswell hit two free throws to cut the lead to two with 4:40 to play and on the ensuing Niner possession Harris hit two free throws to tie the game at 63 with 3:25 remaining.
Lawal countered with two free throws of his own with 25 seconds later and on the ensuing possession Harris hit his third 3-pointer of the night to give the Niners a 66-65 lead with 2:40 left in the game.
The Niners first lead since the early stages of the first half would be short lived as D'Andre Brown hit his lone 3-point attempt on the Yellow Jackets next possession to give them the lead for good.
Lawal scored 17 of his 29 points at the free throw line. Entering the game the Yellow Jackets were shooting 65.4 percent from the charity stripe while Lawal was shooting 66.7 percent from the line.
Lawal connected on 17 of his 20 attempts while the Yellow Jackets hit 29-32 (90.6 percent) free throws in their second true road game of the season.
"This is a quality win for our guys," said Yellow Jacket Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
Harris added 14 points and seven assists while Braswell scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Shamari Spears came into the game averaging 17.6 points per game but he was held scoreless in the first half and finished with eight points.
Bell scored 11 for the Yellow Jackets.
The Niners played 13 players but the five players that started the game were the only ones who scored. Eight Niner reserves failed to score while the Yellow Jackets produced 22 points off the bench.
The Niners travel to Tennessee on Wednesday in an A10/SEC battle.