49ers to 65
Charlotte sneaks away with C-USA crown
Updated: Sunday March 11, 2001 8:48 AM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- For years, Cincinnati has muscled opponents in Conference USA.
The Bearcats were a far tamer team Saturday, and it cost them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
KenKay Jones matched a career-high with 18 points and Charlotte outrebounded Cincinnati 45-29 in an 80-72 win in the Conference USA championship.
The 49ers had a 27-15 edge on the boards in the second half alone and scored 22 second-chance points to Cincinnati's four.
"We were just outmanned," Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins said. "We got blasted on the boards."
Rodney White, the nation's top-scoring freshman, added 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the third-seeded 49ers (21-10), who were playing in the title game for the fourth time in five years and won it for the second time.
The 49ers will play in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years, but for the first time since 1999.
"We're ready for wherever they send us," said Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz. "I think we're road-tested. We only had 12 home games and not a lot of teams can say that."
Cincinnati (23-9) most likely will get an at-large bid, despite losing for just the second time in its last 11 games.
White, the league's leading scorer and freshman of the year, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, scoring 61 points and grabbing 26 rebounds in three games. Jones had six rebounds and five blocked shots Saturday.
"KenKay played incredible," Lutz said. "He missed 30 days of practice after breaking his wrist. You saw today what kind of a player we thought he would be."
Kenny Satterfield scored 18 points for top-seeded Cincinnati, which lost for the first time in three trips to the championship game. Leonard Stokes added 15 and Conference USA player of the year Steve Logan had 14 for the Bearcats.
"We missed shots, they missed shots," Huggins said. "When they missed, they got the rebounds."
Charlotte has won nine of its last 10 and six in a row at Freedom Hall. The 49ers are 9-1 in their last 10 C-USA tournament games.
The 49ers trailed 48-42 early in the second half, but took control with an 11-0 run after switching to a 2-3 zone defense. The Bearcats missed seven consecutive shots before Stokes' rebound putback cut Charlotte's lead to 53-50 with 11:15 left.
"When we went to the zone, we were stepping in and getting to their shooters," Lutz said. "We didn't let Logan and Satterfield get good looks.
"It was a gamble, but they got kind of timid and we stayed with it."
Logan and Satterfield combined for 56 points in Cincinnati's 89-79 win against Memphis in Friday's semifinals. Together, they went 11-of-33 from the floor against Charlotte.
"Every time I'd come off a screen, they would send a bigger guy or double-team me," Logan said. "It was hard to get open."
A 3-pointer by Demon Brown with 10:34 remaining pushed the lead to six and Jones' layup 30 seconds later gave Charlotte a 58-50 lead, its biggest since a game-opening 12-2 run.
White sank a 3-pointer and Jones converted a three-point play during a decisive 11-5 Charlotte spurt run during the next five minutes.
Cincinnati and Charlotte have won four of the six Conference USA