The third and final game of the Charlotte men's basketball road trip ended on Thursday, Jan. 27, in Houston as the 49ers suffered a narrow 65-63 loss to the Rice Owls.
The 49ers now sit at 4-6 in Conference USA (C-USA) play and have lost five of their last seven games.
The first half showed how evenly matched these teams were, with both schools going blow for blow in the first 20 minutes of play. Neither side jumped out to a lead of more than four points to start the game.
The 49ers were led by sophomore Lu'Cye Patterson, who had his best game of the season with 18 points on 8-11 shooting, while Quincy Olivari scored 26 points, making it his fifth game in a row with over 20 for the Owls.
With Patterson scoring the last two buckets to close the half, Charlotte led 28-27 going into the break.
HALF | CLT 28 Rice 27takeover Kye.it's a thing.He's got 11, up at the break. pic.twitter.com/XaFTGHRdZA— Charlotte Men’s Basketball (@CharlotteMBB) January 27, 2023
The 49ers' defense did a stellar job holding the Owls to 38% shooting from the floor and 20% from behind the arc.
Out of the intermission, the Owls came out firing, jumping out to a 15-point lead with 11:25 remaining in the game.
Like the 49ers have done all season, the team stayed composed and began to battle back with around 10 minutes to play.
Charlotte caught fire from three-point range with six threes down the stretch, including the game-tying shot from Aly Khalifa with 13 seconds left.
STEP BACK ALY!!!!!WE ARE TIED!!!! pic.twitter.com/wd7O2phj7U— Charlotte Men’s Basketball (@CharlotteMBB) January 27, 2023
With the game in the balance, the Owls put the ball in star player Olivari's hands, and he was fouled just inside the arc by Patterson. Olivari sank both free throws, giving the Owls a two-point lead with two seconds left on the clock.
The 49ers had a chance to tie or win the game at the buzzer but never got a chance to get a shot off because Max Fiedler intercepted the full-court pass to seal the victory.
With the loss, the 49ers fall to 13-8 on the season and 4-6 in C-USA play. Charlotte currently sits No. 7 in the conference standings with ten games left to play.
Patterson was the 49ers leading scorer with 18 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals. He shot 8-11 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc.
Khalifa followed with 13 points on 5-11 shooting from the field. He recorded five rebounds and a block in the contest.
Igor Miličić Jr. was the final 49er in double-digits, recording 10 points and five rebounds.
The 49ers return to Halton Arena on Thursday, Feb. 2, to face off against the FIU Panthers at 7 p.m. Charlotte will look to avenge their 62-60 loss to the Panthers earlier this month, and the game will be available to stream on ESPN+.