The Charlotte 49ers overcame a rocky start in the first half to defeat the South Carolina State Bulldogs 90-81 as Alan Major picked up his first win as head coach.
It looked as if the Niners (1-1) were in for another rough night as they turned the ball over five times on their first six possessions as the Bulldogs (0-1) raced out to a 9-2 lead.
The Niners found their first spark from An'Juan Wilderness, who returned to the starting lineup after serving a one game suspension.
Wilderness blocked Joseph Wright's shot and was able to convert one of two free throws on the opposite end to get things started.
Wilderness cut the lead to 11-7 on a jumper but the Niners became shorthanded in the front court as Chris Braswell picked up his second foul with 14:53 left in the first half.
"He got to the rim and had a couple of put backs," said Major of Wilderness. "An'Juan got in there and got us a couple of easy one's and helped us kind of settle ourselves a little bit."
Omar Sanders' layup put the Bulldogs up 17-11 with 11:24 remaining in the half. The Niners ran off six unanswered points capped by Shamari Spears layup which tied the game with 9:51 remaining and forced the Bulldogs to call timeout.
However the Niners were unable to capitalize and take the lead as they trailed from two to five points for most of the remainder of the half.
Brandon Riley's 3-pointer put the Bulldogs up 41-38 with 1:09 left in the first half and that's when the Niners began to surge.
Jamar Briscoe tied the game with a 3-pointer of his own with 54 seconds left in the half. The Niners got a defensive stop on the next possession and held for the last shot of the half.
Javarris Barnett missed his 3-pointer but Gokhan Sirin was there to clean up the glass and tipped it through the hoop with two seconds left in the half to give the Niners a 43-41 lead heading into the half.
It was the first lead of the game for the Niners and they didn't relinquish it.
The Niners scored seven straight points to start the second half to extend their lead to nine points.
"I really thought we had a shot to upset Charlotte," said Bulldog Head Coach Tim Carter. "We didn't have an answer."
The Niners maintained a double digit lead for most of the second half which stretched out to as many as 17 when Colby Lewis drained a 3-pointer from the corner with 7:37 to play which basically iced the game for the Niners.
"This game is about the players," said Major afterwards. "I'm thankful for the victory but this whole thing is about these guys. It was a great challenge for us coming off of last night in a team that had a lot of steam coming off last year."
Shamari Spears returned from his one game suspension to lead all scorers with 25 points. Briscoe added 15 points and eight rebounds while Braswell added 14 points and six rebounds. Derrio Green added 11 points.
Riley led the Bulldogs with 23 points.
There weren't a lot of fast break opportunities as both teams combined to score nine points in that department.
Eighty free throws were attempted while 62 personal fouls and three technicals were handed out.
Spears picked up both of Charlotte's technicals, the last one coming with 9.7 seconds left in the game after he slammed the ball down when Barnett was called for traveling.