In a game dictated by defense, Charlotte 49ers standout freshman point guard Pierria Henry had the last word. With 8 seconds left and the 49ers up by three, Henry stole the ball from Saint Joseph’s leading scorer Carl Jones and hit two subsequent free throws to seal the 49ers 57-52 Atlantic 10 road win.
“I just knew we gotta come up with this win,” Henry said. “My teammates helped me out alot. That communication helped me get into position and I just thank god the ball rolled my way and I came out with it.”
The game was fittingly decided, for all intents and purposes, on the defensive end. Offensively, the 49ers (9-5; 2-0) shot just 34%, including 26% in a second half in which they made just seven field goals. SJU shot slightly better: 40% for the game, but just 38% in the second half and committed 16 turnovers, 13 of which came at the hands of 49ers steals.
“They were potent — as potent a team as we’ve played”, 49ers head coach Alan Major said a Hawks team that came in averaging over 74 points a game. “We just had to commit to it. I thought the guys did a outstanding job of staying with the game plan and keeping track of their two best guys. That was big.”
Jones, the A-10’s leading scorer, finished with 14 points, all of which came in the second half. Charlotte was led by Henry and Deuce Briscoe, who scored his 1000th collegiate point. Both guards had 11 points. Henry, who ranks 6th in the nation in steals had four of the 49ers 13 steals. He added five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot with no turnovers.
Charlotte enjoyed a 41-39 edge on the boards.
Briscoe scored his 1000th career point in the first half on a pull up jumper that gave the 49ers a 17-12 lead. Briscoe scored 535 points as a freshman at NC Central and has now scored 1008 in his three-year college career.
The victory was the 49ers first A-10 road win since Feb. 6, 2010, when they defeated Fordham on the road, 77-72. It snapped a string of 11 straight A-10 road losses, including all eight last season.
The win improves the 49ers league record to 2-0 — the 49ers first 2-0 start since the 2007-08 season.
Charlotte led by as many as 13, 29-16, with 4:38 left in the first half, following a Henry steal and layup. Saint
Joseph’s (11-5; 1-1) scored 8 of the final 10 points of the half to make it a seven point game, 31-24, at the half. After trading baskets early, SJU went on a 12-0 run capped by a Jones three-pointer to take a 38-36 lead at 13:16. It was the Hawks first lead since being up 10-9.
The lead would peak at five and the Hawks still led by five, 50-45 with 4:31 to play, but Charlotte would hold the Hawks to just two points the rest of the way.
Senior Javarris Barnett hit a key three-pointer at 4:16 to make it a two-point game, 50-48. A Henry steal led to a floater from Briscoe and a tie game with 3:28 left and then Henry knocked down his own floater with 1:59 to play to give the 49ers the lead for good. Two DeMario Mayfield free throws at 1:21 put Charlotte ahead by four and after a pair of Jones free throws, Barnett made one to give Charlotte a 55-52 lead with 30 seconds left to set up the Hawks final possession.
Jones missed a three-pointer with 13 seconds left but the ball bounded out of bounds off the 49ers to give SJU another chance. On the inbounds play, the ball ended up with Jones off a screen. As Jones made his move, Henry pressured the ball and forced the game-winning turnover.
“I thought the guys showed a maturity,” Major said of the comeback in the final five minutes. “They went back out there and settled down I think we got our defense back.”
The loss was Saint Joseph’s first home loss of the season.
Charlotte, which improves to 5-3 on the road this year, continues its road play at UMass, Wednesday night.