The Charlotte 49ers took their first step toward a successful season in the Atlantic 10 with a 74-65 victory over the visiting La Salle Explorers at Halton Arena on Wednesday night.
The Explorers (10-3, 0-1) were off to their best start since 1989. Prior to their game against the 49ers, they averaged 74.3 points a game and shot 45 percent from the field. However, the 49ers suffocated the Explorers, especially in the first half.
Led by Pierria Henry, the 49ers forced the Explorers to shoot 21.9 percent from the the field.
The 49ers used an effective 12-0 run that gave them a lead they wouldn't relinquish. The run began with 14:24 in the first half and ended five minutes later that put the 49ers up 18-10.
After a Tyreek Duren jumper to somewhat hinder the 49ers offense, they'd come together again to close out the half on another run to go into the locker room up 33-17. The Explorers 17 points were the lowest scored by an opponent this season in the first half by the 49ers.
"We clearly lost the game in the first half", said Explorers Head Coach John Giannini. "We gave ourselves a chance in the second half…but Charlotte just outcompeted us in the first half."
The Explorers would actually outscore the 49ers 48-41 in the second half behind 17 second-half points from Ramon Galloway. He would end with a game high of 23 points but he only shot 7-for-29 from the field.
"It was one of those nights where nothing was falling," said Galloway. "They were grabbing rebounds and not letting us get second chance shots." In the decisive first half, the Explorers only had two second points as compared to eight for the 49ers.
After trailing by as much as 16 in the first half the closest the Explorers would come again was 6 points with 2:53 remaining in the game.
"I think we played much better in the second half but it was just too little too late," said Giannini. "We never expect to be down by 16 going into half…they won both sides of the court…their defense was better than ours. They scored and we didn't."
"La Salle is a drive and kick team and when they are at their best it's when they're really spraying the ball around and making you scramble," Major said. "Our thinking was if we could try to take away the drive they maybe wouldn't get any kicks."
The Explorers would get a few balls kicked outside but the 49ers accept holding an opponent to shoot 4-for-29 from outside the arc any day.
The 49ers did falter by giving away 21 turnovers that resulted in 18 points for the Explorers. Henry, who had 6 of those turnovers, said that he was learning how to be a leader to his younger teammates in close games.
The 49ers brought 35 points off the bench, most coming from second-half free throws-five explorers had four fouls (Zack, Wright, Duren, Galloway, and Garland) which accounted for 22 points from the courtesy line.
Coach commended the four 49ers that had double figure scoring tonight: DeMario Mayfield (10 pts), Darion Clark (12 pts), E. Victor Nickerson (13 pts) and Henry with 20 points.
Henry and Nickerson achieved new career highs in points scored.
"Another typical A-10 hard fought battle," said Major afterwards. "We thought they were one of the more potent offensive teams we faced all season with their ability to shoot the three ball."
The Explorers came into the game with 106 3-pointers on the season-they would only make four against the 49ers.
The 49ers are off to their first 13-2 start since the 1994-95 season. They travel Saturday to Rhode Island to play the Rams who lost on the road to Richmond 64-61 on Wednesday night.