In My Opinion

Sorensen: Wildcats, 49ers play different games

tsorensen@charlotteobserver.comDecember 4, 2013 

The Charlotte 49ers started the season beautifully. They won six of their first seven games and established themselves as the greatest college basketball team in Puerto Rico.

Davidson, meanwhile, struggled. The Wildcats lost to the teams they were supposed to, such as Duke and Clemson, as well as to teams they weren’t supposed to, such as Milwaukee.

Going into their annual match-up Wednesday, this time at Halton Arena, the 49ers were 6-1 and the Wildcats 2-5.

So this wasn’t supposed to happen.

In a thrilling game that went to overtime, Davidson upset Charlotte 87-78.

It was as if the teams were playing different games.

The Wildcats shot 28 three-pointers, the 49ers 16.

The Wildcats shot 50.7 percent from the field, the 49ers 41.7 percent.

Charlotte grabbed 42 rebounds, Davidson 30. Charlotte grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, Davidson 7.

The 49ers shot 36 free throws, the Wildcats 15. Charlotte made 10 more free throws than Davidson attempted.

Charlotte had a chance to win at the end of regulation. Ben Cherry drove to the hoop but missed the shot. Willie Clayton grabbed the rebound but couldn’t get the shot to fall.

Three players did, however. As regulation ended, Clayton, Cherry and Davidson’s Tyler Kalinoski went to the court hard. They were down several seconds after regulation ended.

In overtime Jordan Barham, a 6-4 Davidson sophomore and perhaps Davidson’s best leaper for a team not known for its leaping, went high for an offensive rebound, hit a basket and drew a foul. The Wildcats led 77-74.

Then Davidson’s Tom Droney found Kalinoski with a slick pass inside for a layup.

Barham went to the hoop for another basket and the lead was seven.

Charlotte couldn’t score, missing shots and turning the ball over.

The Wildcats led by as many as nine in the second half. They repeatedly beat the 49ers with old, old, old school backdoor cuts and layups.

Davidson wins the Hornets Nest Trophy and ends a two-game losing streak to the 49ers.

The trophy is horrendous. It looks like something you’d tell your kids they’d have to keep in their room if they refused to go to sleep. Davidson’s radio commentator John Kilgo joked that the loser should have to keep the trophy. The trophy looks like a brain, and not a smart one.

So: Trophy bad, rivalry good. Halton Arena on the Charlotte campus wasn’t full, but fans filled it with noise.

They were passionate and excited and put-upon and angry and they cared. This is a game that has to be played, one that ought to attract fans not simply of the 49ers or Wildcats but of college basketball.

This was a good game, even though both teams lacked one of their top players. Charlotte missed the intense and steadying leadership of Pierria Henry.

Davidson missed forward De’Mon Brooks, a senior who is a force inside and a top athlete.

So other players filled the void for the 49ers and the Wildcats.

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