Led by freshman point guard Jahmir Young’s 24-point performance, the 49ers snapped their two-game losing skid by coming back from a 12-point deficit to defeat Florida Atlantic 70-68.
“I’m really thankful for that W,” Charlotte Head Coach Ron Sanchez said. “These guys have been battling the last eleven days preparing for this stretch. We’re so thankful for our fans giving us the energy that we needed to overcome that wall.”
The Owls started the game by attacking the lane aggressively, as three of their first four field goals were made layups. On defense, the Owls gave Charlotte trouble. FAU held the 49ers to 28.6 percent shooting through the first five minutes. FAU also forced seven turnovers in the first ten minutes of the game and forcefully denied Young the ball.
FAU continued to shoot well after the first ten minutes of the game, as guards Taylor Cornelius and Jaylin Ingram combined for three consecutive, unanswered three-pointers. That extended the Owls' lead to 24-9. The Owls’ three-point clinic urged Sanchez to use a timeout.
“That’s a very talented team. They shoot the ball really well from the perimeter,” Sanchez said. “That kid Cornelius, he’s phenomenal. I told him at the end of the game he had a heck of a performance.”
The 49ers showcased their trademark grit out of the timeout break. Malik Martin led Charlotte on a 17-6 run by contributing seven points. Charlotte also seemed to settle down after the timeout, committing only one turnover in the final ten minutes of the half compared to seven in the first ten minutes. The run returned Charlotte to a competitive state and trimmed the Owls’ lead to four points.
“The one takeaway [from this game] is these guys fight; they don’t quit,” Sanchez said. “They just fight and play for one another. As a coach, what more can you ask for?”
The Owls held on to their four-point lead and went to the halftime break with a 34-30 lead.
Both offenses exchanged scoring possessions early in the second half until the Owls scored seven unanswered points in the span of 1:50 to claim a 43-32 edge. The deficit caused Sanchez to call an early timeout, but it seemed Charlotte might have dug themselves in a hole too deep to come out of. The Owls were able to maintain a lead of at least ten points, until six minutes remaining in the game.
Trailing by eleven, Young led the 49ers on a thirteen-to-three run to put Charlotte down by one with 4:18 left in the game.
“I feel like as a team, we just wanted to do everything we could win,” Young said. “Just trying to get stops every possession, I feel like that sparks our offense, so that’s what we did.”
FAU responded by bolstering their lead with a 5-0 run. Charlotte remained determined and came to within three points of the Owls’ lead with 1:30 remaining. Edwards tied the game by hitting a double-clutch corner-three. Shepherd gave Charlotte the lead on an ensuing possession by weaving through the defense and connecting on an acrobatic layup. The 49ers warded off the Owls’ comeback attempt for a 70-68 victory.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge with [only] one day of prep,” Sanchez said. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know that if our crowd wasn’t there tonight we could do that. I’m really thankful that we have loyal fans.”
The win moves the 49ers to third in Conference USA. Charlotte looks to continue to stay undefeated at home in conference play on Saturday, Jan. 25 against C-USA opponent FIU.