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Originally published: 2013-12-09 13:43:40
Last modified: 2013-12-09 13:44:25

Charlotte breezes past Mountaineers

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

When Charlotte's men's basketball team went into a zone defense, the 49ers dared Appalachian State to make shots from the outside.
Appalachian State could not take advantage of the dare and Charlotte rolled to a 77-59 victory in front of 1,354 fans at the Holmes Center Sunday.
Appalachian State (2-6) shot just 32.8 percent (21-of-64) from the field, including 25 percent (8-of-32) in the first half. The Mountaineers made just 4-of-24 from 3-point range, and had just one player -- guard Mike Neal -- score in double figures.
Neal finished with 16 points.
"I believe we have good shooters," Appalachian State coach Jason Capel said. "We have guys who can make a shot, but we have to be able to make an open shot. I thought we did some good things and I thought we fought. But if you're not making open shots, your confidence drops and I think that's what's happened."
When Charlotte needed points, it went inside to 6-foot-11 center Mike Thorne Jr. He responded with a game-high 26 points on 12-of-18 shooting.
Appalachian State also used a zone against Charlotte. But when the Mountaineers switched defenses, Charlotte went to Thorne and Willie Clayton, who scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Charlotte outscored Appalachian State 54-28 in the paint, and shot 50.8 percent from the field.
Charlotte coach Alan Major said the plan was to use Charlotte's height advantage -- Clayton stands 6-8 -- against the Mountaineers.
"Our plan was to go inside in general," Major said. "Sometimes it ends up being Willie and sometimes it ends up being Mike depending on who may have the matchup and depending on how teams are playing them. Tonight it happened to be Mike because Willie was in foul trouble and so Mike really stepped up and kind of took the bull by the horns in the first half and helped anchor us by getting some easy baskets."
Neal made just 6-of-18 from the field, and missed all five of his 3-point attempts. Tab Hamilton scored nine points coming off the bench, but made just 3-of-12 shots from the field. All of his points came on three 3-point baskets he made.
Former Ashe standout Tommy Spagnolo also scored nine points in just 10 minutes of playing time. Spagnolo added four rebounds.
Appalachian State led 11-7, but missed seven shots from the field and two free throws during a 7-0 49ers run that gave Charlotte a 14-6 lead. App State guard Ty Toney scored on a three-point play to tie the game 14-14, but Charlotte sprinted out to an 11-0 run capped by a Thorne three-point play and took a 25-14 lead.
After Appalachian State rallied to within 30-22,  capped by a Spagnolo three-point play, the 49ers closed out the first half with a 7-0 run and a 37-22 halftime lead. The Mountaineers never got closer than 13 points the rest of the game.
"Give Charlotte a lot of credit," Capel said. "They're big and I thought our game plan worked to a 'T' at the start of the game. We knew our advantage was to be quicker and beat them up and down the court and put some of their big guys in isolation and move them away from the basket. We did the job to get out early in transition. We did the job to get Clayton, who is a heck of a player, in foul trouble early and force them to play zone. Conversely when you do that, you have to make a shot."
Charlotte took its largest lead of 23 points, 62-39, on a Clayton layup with 9:31 left in the game. Terrance Williams scored 12 points and Shawn Lester scored 10 points off the bench for Charlotte.
Standout point guard Pierria Henry, coming back from a knee injury, scored nine points and handed out seven assists. Henry missed the 49ers 87-78 double overtime loss to Davidson on Dec. 4.
Major said the 6-4 junior was anxious to return to the court.
"It's like when you let the dog out of the station wagon at the park and he's been in the house all winter," Major said. "You just throw the tennis ball out there and there he goes. I thought his energy was great. He had five steals at halftime and he was his old disruptive-self again and the guys feed off of that."
Appalachian State does not play again until Dec. 15 at Winthrop. The Mountaineers play at Presbyterian on Dec. 18, and return home to face Milligan on Dec. 21.

Charlotte 77, Appalachian State 59
Charlotte 77 (7-2)
Clayton 4-5 3-7 11, Thorne Jr. 12-18 2-3 26, Williams 4-11 4-5 12, Henry 4-8 0-0 9, Cherry 1-4 0-0 3, Lester 4-6 0-0 10, Ingram 1-4 0-0 2, Blakley 0-1 0-0 0, Bryan 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 32-63 9-15 77.
Appalachian State 59 (2-6)
Baskin 2-7 2-3 6, Obacha 0-0 1-4 1, Burgess 1-7 0-0 2, Eaves 2-7 3-4 8, Neal 6-18 5-8 17, Kobani 2-5 0-1 4, Hamilton 3-12 0-0 9, Spagnolo 4-7 1-1 9, Toney 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 21-64 13-22 59.
Halftime score-Charlotte 37, App State 22. 3-point goals‑Charlotte 4-10 (Lester 2-3, Henry 1-2, Cherry 1-3, Williams 0-1, Blakley 0-1). Rebounds-Charlotte 43 (Clayton 10), App State 39 (Kobani 8). Assists-Charlotte 12 (Henry 7), App State 8 (Neal 5). Steals-Charlotte 9 (Henry 6), App State 8 (Three with two). Turnovers-Charlotte 13, App State 11. Total fouls-Charlotte 16, App State 16. Fouled out-None. Technical fouls-None. Att.-1,354.