The Chippewas (4-4) came within single digits on several occasions in the second half, but each time the 49ers (9-0) had an answer to pull away - a cycle that repeated itself three times during the highly physical contest.
Central scored the first five points of the second half to come within two, but a 14-3 run over the next five minutes by the 49ers gave them a 13-point edge, 48-35, at the 12:26 mark. Fighting back again, the Chippewas came within seven only to see their deficit go back to 12, and were within six, 64-58, at the 3:40 mark before eight points by the 49ers gave them their largest lead of the night at 14 with 2:08 remaining.
Charlotte scored 22 of their 31 first-half points from inside, still shooting just 38 percent, but found the stroke in the second half and hit 62 percent, mainly from outside, to hold off the Chippewas' surges by scoring on eight of 10 possessions between 8:04 and 2:08.
The 49ers entered the game out-rebounding their opponents by 6.6 boards per game but were only able to edge the Chippewas by one, 37-36. CMU had one more offensive board then Charlotte.
"We knew Charlotte would, just like they have eight times prior this season, come into the game and try to push us around," said CMU head coach Keno Davis. "We had to make sure we met that intensity and pushed right back. We didn't execute like we need to but I'm not so sure we didn't play our best game of the year. We were a couple plays short of making it a ballgame at the end but I can't fault our effort today."
Kyle Randall led the Chippewas' scoring with 15 points, followed closely by a season-high 13 from Olivier Mbaigoto and a career-high 13 from John Simons. Blake Hibbitts turned in 11 points and a career-high seven rebounds off the bench. CMU hit 89 percent of its free throws, going 16-of-18 from the line while Charlotte was just 10-of-15.
"Coming into the game I wasn't so sure that we would have enough (on the boards)," said Davis. "But our leading rebounders were freshmen. They are going to look different before they are done. We will add pieces and become a better team but what you can't teach as a coach is effort and attitude. You have to recruit that. We are fortunate that we have guys who will be the base of a good program where we compete night in and night out."