Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit’s due.
Charlotte was an afterthought in Conference USA heading into the season, but that certainly changed this week as the 49ers knocked off Kansas and Northeastern to set up Sunday’s showdown with No. 14 Michigan in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
And in a game that drew plenty of attention stateside due to New England’s inability to avoid fumbling, the 49ers knocked off the Wolverines, 63-61, when Terrence Williams laid in his own miss with 0.4 seconds left.
Michigan struggled in this event. Frankly, they’ve struggled all season long, and there is a reason for that. Trey Burke is gone, replaced by freshman Derrick Walton and sophomore Spike Albrecht. Mitch McGary is still working his way back into shape. Glenn Robinson III is still learning how to be more than an athlete that can shoot. Zak Irvin isn’t ready to be more than a role player. Put it all together, and you get a team that has to ride the coattails of Nik Stauskas, who looks like he could be headed to an All-American season.
Tonight was the perfect example. Nik Stauskas had 20 points on 6-for-13 shooting (he was 6-for-11 from the floor before rolling his ankle with four minutes left). The Non-Stauskas Wolverines were 13-for-48 from the floor and scored 41 points.
Charlotte, on the other hand, came out prepared. Alan Major’s team isn’t flashy, but they defend, they play hard, they’re tough and they had a game plan that was executed and effective. It didn’t hurt that Glenn Robinson III didn’t return after a hard fall in the first half, one that reportedly injured his back, but all the 49ers can do is beat the team that takes the court against them.
For the third time in four days in San Juan, they did.