The Charlotte 49ers traveled to Puerto Rico knowing they were a tough, veteran team and they made sure the college basketball world knew it on Thursday afternoon. The 49ers used aggressive attacks on both sides of the floor to knock off the heavily favored Kansas State Wildcats, 68-61.
The 49ers attacked the rim early and often in San Juan, getting to the line 29 times and converting 20 of their 29 free throw attempts. Mike Thorne, Jr. paced Charlotte with 16 points and 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Niners also received double-digit scoring efforts from Willie Clayton, Pierria Henry, Shawn Lester, and Denzel Ingram.
Kansas State was stifled by Charlotte’s defensive pressure, forcing the Wildcats to shoot just 37.3 percent from the field and a very poor 19.2 percent from beyond the arc. Only a single K-State player who attempted more than 2 field goals shot above .500 from the floor.
The Hoyas started off strong, jumping out an 11-3 lead over the first 4:50 of the contest with the Huskies turning the ball over on their first three possessions.
As Northeastern battled to stay within striking distance in the first half, they battled foul trouble and consistently looked sluggish offensively. Scott Eatherton picked up his third foul with 9:16 remaining in the first half and Zach Stahl almost immediately joined him on the bench with three of his own personals with 8:15 remaining.
The Huskies found themselves down 11 points at intermission and looked dead in the water, but Bill Coen rallied his troops and the Huskies stormed out of halftime. Behind Eatherton and Reggie Spencer’s strong play in the paint and the team’s overall aggressive attacks at the rim, Northeastern used a 15-4 run to tie the game at 40 with 11:55 left to play.
After getting to the line just 11 times in the first half, Northeastern shot 22 free throws in the final 20 minutes and beat Georgetown at their own game. The Huskies closed off the paint on defense with a tenacious zone, pushed the pace and ultimately squeaked out a 63-56 victory.
And, they did so with Demetrius Pollard surprisingly fouling out with 17:09 left in the game.
Charlotte and Northeastern will meet in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off semi finals tomorrow at 2:30 EST on ESPN2.