Men’s basketball was forced to play physical when it traveled to play an unbeaten Charlotte team and lost 78-66.
Shortly after the 49ers built a 13-point lead in the second half the 49ers sophomore guard Pierriá Henry nearly threw senior guard Kyle Randall to the ground and head coach Keno Davis left the bench to protect his players.
Henry was ejected and Davis received a technical foul.
“You fear for your player’s safety when you see that kind of thing,” Davis said. “The only thing you’re trying to do as a head coach is trying to separate guys and make sure it doesn’t escalate.”
Leading up to the altercation the Chippewas cut their deficit to 39-35 after senior Olivier Mbaigoto hit a three-pointer with 14:51 left in the game.
But the 49ers used two fast break dunks, a layup, along with a three-pointer in between to make it 48-35 and all but securing the game for UNCC.
CMU hung in on the boards, getting out-rebounded by just one (37-36).
“We had some guys that got involved in that physical contact,” Davis said. “We needed to have that effort because Charlotte was going come in here, and like they’ve done eight times prior, try to push you around.”
Mbaigoto performed better, filling in for injured center Zach Saylor, the second-time around. He scored 13 points, making four-of-five field goal attempts. Mbaigoto also grabbed five rebounds.
He said he was excited to play in the game after the double overtime loss to the 49ers last year.
Mbaigoto only played three minutes in the first half because of foul trouble and played 15 for the game.
“I just wanted to go out and play hard,” he said. “I was (frustrated in the first half) because my team needed me.”
Randall led the team in scoring with 15 points.
The Chippewas kept fighting until the end.
They were as close as six points with 3:40 left when freshman forward Blake Hibbitts, who had 11 points, made a three-pointer.
But with desperate play calling on defense in a comeback attempt, Charlotte found more holes in CMU’s defense and took advantage.
“We did not execute like we needed to,” Davis said. “We were a couple plays short of making it a ball game at the end, but I can’t fault our guys’ effort.”
The Chippewas showed resiliency at the beginning of the game as well.
The 49ers went on an 8-0 run to take a 21-13 lead with 7:06 left in the first half.
But Hibbitts sparked a 14-6 run with a three pointer, and the run concluded after he hit another to tie the game at 27, as a result of penetration by freshman guard Chris Fowler, with fewer than two minutes to go in the first half.
The Chippewas wont be playing another game until Sunday Dec. 16 at Pepperdine.
“We need to make sure we focus on our academics,” Davis said. “But we also have to make sure during this week we get a little bit better.”