The Charlotte 49ers defeated the FIU Panthers in a convincing fashion to move to fourth in Conference USA standings.
“I’m really thankful for this win,” Charlotte Head Coach Ron Sanchez said. “[I’m] really proud of the guys for their effort. I’m happy they’re able to celebrate the victory today. I give a lot of credit to our staff; they were unbelievable helping us prepare.”
Charlotte started the game off on a 9-1 run, holding C-USA’s top-ranked offense to 0-5 shooting from the field. In contrast, the 49ers’ offense shot 4-5 from the field on their first five shots.
However, the Panthers methodically chipped away at the 49ers’ lead after getting off to a slow start. Shortly after, the FIU defense held Charlotte scoreless for three minutes. During the 49ers’ scoring drought, the Panthers drew to within one point of the 49ers’ lead which urged Sanchez to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Jordan Shepherd scored six unanswered points to extend the 49ers’ lead to seven. Charlotte and FIU exchanged several scoring possessions before halftime. FIU guard Antonio Daye Jr. connected on an acrobatic-layup to make it a one-possession game heading into the halftime break.
Early in the second half, Charlotte and FIU kept the game competitive by trading scoring possessions. However, Charlotte’s defense got the best of the Panthers, holding them scoreless for two minutes and thirty seconds while building a significant lead. The scoring drought prompted FIU Head Coach Jeremy Ballard to call a timeout.
Things got worse for the Panthers after the timeout as Charlotte shot 5-7 from the field while the Panthers didn’t score for the next 3:30. During the Panthers’ scoring drought, the 49ers extended their lead to 16. Later, Charlotte further extended its lead by scoring seven unanswered points to make the score 65-41. Charlotte reserve players such as Tyler Bertram and Brandon Younger received quality playing time at the end of a 75-49 blowout victory.
The FIU offense ranks No. 14 in the nation, averaging 81.1 points per game, 9.8 assists per game and a 37.5 three-point shooting percentage. The 49ers held the Panthers to 49 points; 14.3 percent from three-point range in the first half and 16.7 percent in the second half and five total assists. Furthermore, FIU averages 18.6 PPG on points off turnovers. However, Charlotte limited them to seven points off turnovers.
“We just wanted to make them take the most difficult shot that we could make them take,” Sanchez said.
Shepherd echoed Sanchez’s sentiments in the postgame press conference. “Defense is what made us successful and helped us play the way we wanted to play,” Shepherd said.
The 49ers look to extend their win streak to three on Thursday, Jan. 30 on the road against a formidable C-USA opponent in Louisiana Tech (15-5, 6-2).
“Today, as good as we were, there were some things to learn from, so we’ll watch the film, celebrate the things we did well, focus on the things we did poorly and then we’ll grow,” said Sanchez.