The 49ers captured their eighth conference win and 12th home win of the season by defeating Jhivvan Jackson and the UTSA Roadrunners 91-84.
“Really thankful for this win,” Charlotte Head Coach Ron Sanchez said. “As a competitor, you’ve got to tip your hat to players and coaches you respect.”
Charlotte started the game firing all on cylinders. The 49ers, who rank 11th in Conference USA scoring offense and are typically dependent upon scoring in transition, scored 15 points in their half court set and four points in transition during the first 10 minutes.
On defense, Charlotte forced the Roadrunners to miss six of their first eight field-goal attempts and forced six UTSA turnovers in the first seven minutes. Additionally, the 49ers effectively executed their game plan by denying the ball to Jackson and Keaton Wallace early in the game.
“We wanted to shut those two guys down,” Sanchez said. “We wanted them to not get their average. We gave them our best punch and they still got 25 and 27 [points].”
However, the Roadrunners adjusted their defense by sending double teams to 49ers Amidou Bamba and Malik Martin on post-up plays. The adjustment resulted in Charlotte committing a turnover on their next three offensive possessions and allowed UTSA to pull to within one of the 49ers’ lead behind a quick 7-0 run.
UTSA big-man Luka Barisic tied the score shortly after the Roadrunners’ 7-0 run by connecting on a 3-pointer from the wing. With the game tied 19-19, Sanchez called a timeout to regroup and make adjustments.
The 49ers scored six unanswered points out of the halftime break and held the Roadrunners to 0-5 shooting. Suddenly finding his team down 25-19, UTSA Head Coach Steve Henson called a timeout to make adjustments.
With Jackson sidelined for rest, the Roadrunners looked to Wallace, C-USA’s third-leading scorer, to generate points and offense. Wallace delivered, scoring eight consecutive points within sixty seconds to trim the 49ers’ lead to 30-28.
However, with the score at 33-30, Charlotte extended their lead to 39-33, as Jahmir Young and Jordan Shepherd each hit a 3-pointer to propel the 49ers on a 6-0 scoring run.
UTSA remained resilient without Jackson in the lineup and trimmed the 49ers' lead to three with 36 seconds remaining before halftime. However, Martin connected on a mid-range jumper as time expired to give Charlotte a 41-36 lead entering halftime.
The Roadrunners’ dynamic backcourt duo of Jackson and Wallace exploded on offense for 15 and 18 second-half points, respectively.
“At one point, I wanted to call them Batman and Robinhood, but they’re more like Batman and Superman,” Sanchez said. “Those two kids, as hard as we tried to guard them, still had 25 and 27 points.”
However, early in the second half, UTSA center Jacob Germany committed his fourth foul of the game, urging Henson to relegate him to the bench until much later in the second half. Without Germany’s looming, lengthy presence in the paint, the 49ers were able to attack the interior off of pick-and-roll plays and post-ups.
Young gave the 49ers their largest lead of the game by hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Charlotte ahead 60-48. UTSA methodically chipped away at the 49ers lead, as Jackson and Wallace drew numerous fouls and cashed in on the free-throw opportunities.
“A lot of fouls were called today,” Sanchez said. “I think it was a hard game to officiate. It moved so fast, and those guys are so crafty with their moves.”
With 3:30 left in the game, the 49ers looked at the scoreboard to see their once 12-point lead had diminished to just a four-point advantage. However, Shepherd and Young each hit a 3-pointer to give Charlotte a decisive 80-72 lead. Despite Jackson and Wallace connecting on several high-degree of difficulty shots late in the game, the 49ers were able to ward off the Roadrunners’ last-minute comeback attempt for a 91-84 victory.
“I’m glad we shot the ball well and made our free throws late,” Sanchez said.
Charlotte will shift their attention to their next game against North Texas, one of the best teams in C-USA.
“[Home is] where we have the most confidence; it’s where we’re most comfortable,” Shepherd said. “That’s the sign of a young team, that we can’t travel on the road. We’re trying to get better [at winning on the road].”
The 49ers take on North Texas on the road on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m.