Charlotte, N.C. – Ben Cherry scored 20 points and hit six three-pointers and Charlotte held on for an 81-76 victory over USC Upstate Saturday night from Halton Arena.
Upstate trailed by as many as 22 points in the second half and was behind by 14 with just over six minutes left. That's when Upstate used a 16-0 run late in the half to take a 71-69 lead with 2:46 remaining on a three-pointer from Torrey Craig. Craig finished with a game-high 26 points and hit five three-pointers to tie the school record for the most career treys with 255.
Charlotte forward Terrence Williams answered on the other end with a three-pointer of his own to put the 49ers back head by a point with 2:19 left to play. Craig drove to the basket on the ensuing Upstate possession and appeared to draw contact, but no foul was called and the ball dribbled out of bounds and was awarded to the 49ers.
Williams drew a foul on the following Charlotte possession and hit one of two free throws to give the 49ers a 73-71 advantage with 1:34 remaining. Charlotte got a defensive stop on the following Upstate possession and forced the Spartans to foul on the rebound. Pierria Henry hit both fouls shots and put the 49ers ahead by four points with 26 seconds to play.
Charlotte would go 6-for-6 from the free throw line sandwiched in between three Upstate free throws over the final 16 seconds to hold on for the win.
Williams, Shawn Lester and Willie Clayton all finished with 13 points apiece for Charlotte.
Ty Greene scored 15 points to go along with six assists, while Michael Buchanan added 11 points and four rebounds. Karim Mawuenyega chipped in with 10 points and Mario Blessing finished with six of Upstate's 20 assists.
Charlotte hit seven three-pointers and shot 61.3 percent from the field in the first half and used a 22-8 run over the final 7:38 to take a 48-26 lead into halftime.
Upstate managed to pull within eight points on a Craig three-pointer from the top of the key with 8:41 remaining in the first half, but Cherry answered with a three-pointer on three consecutive Charlotte possession to push the 49er lead to 35-18 with just over six minutes before halftime.
Clayton scored the next eight points for Charlotte to push the 49ers ahead 42-20 with 2:23 left. A layup from Buchanan pulled Upstate to within 19 with nine seconds before the half, but Lester hit a deep three-pointer as time expired to give Charlotte its biggest lead of the half.
Upstate puts the finishing touches on its non-conference schedule Dec. 31 at 5 p.m. when the Spartans host North Greenville from the Hodge Center.