CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Curtis Withers woke up and led Charlotte back on a difficult day.
Withers sparked a second-half comeback with 11 points as the 49ers rallied from a 12-point deficit for a 77-71 Conference USA victory over ninth-ranked Louisville.
Charlotte (15-5, 7-2 C-USA) suspended second-leading scorer Demon Brown earlier in the day, three days after he was charged with two counts of communicating threats in connection with an incident in which he waved a gun at two females on February 4.
Withers scored 12 points in the first half but was held scoreless in the first 11 minutes after halftime as Louisville (17-4, 7-3) seemingly took control. The Cardinals grabbed a 59-47 lead on two free throws by Larry O'Bannon with 10:21 left.
Withers finally came alive with seven points as the 49ers ran off the next 11 to get back in the game. His jumper with 1:43 remaining gave Charlotte a 67-66 lead, its first of the second half.
"He got a little tired. But we had to have him in there," Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said. "He's such a physical guy and Louisville wears you down."
Francisco Garcia hit a short bank shot and nailed a 3-pointer around a shot from the arc by Charlotte's Brendan Plavich to give Louisville a 71-70 lead with 38 seconds to play. But the 49ers' Mitchell Baldwin beat everybody upcourt for a layup as he was fouled just four seconds later.
"Baldwin's too fast," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "The last play - he beat us down the floor."
Baldwin missed the free throw, but Withers got the rebound, was fouled and made two from the line for a 74-71 edge with 30 seconds left. Garcia turned over the ball on Louisville's next possession and the 49ers sealed it with three foul shots in the final 18 seconds.
Withers finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th double-double, tops in Conference USA. The speedy Baldwin, who started in place of Brown, came up with 13 points.
"We had faith in our team that we had more than one guard," Withers said. "He came in and played well."
The Cardinals' defense faltered after halftime, allowing the 49ers to shoot 58 percent (15-of-26). Louisville also was beaten on the glass, 43-36.
"We didn't play good defense in the second half," Pitino said. "We were more concerned with not fouling than making good defensive plays."
Nate Daniels scored all of his 11 points in the first 10 minutes as Louisville used a 12-0 tear for a 24-15 lead with 10:36 to go before halftime. The Cardinals were a sizzling 7-of-12 from the arc at the half.
The second half was a different story as Louisville was a frigid 3-of-17, demonstrating some tired legs from chasing Baldwin and Plavich.
"We took good shots," Pitino said. "We just played very poor defense down the stretch."
O'Bannon led the Cardinals with 17 points, but Garcia and Dean each struggled to finish with nine points. Both players were hampered by foul trouble and Garcia fouled out with 17 seconds left, sealing Louisville's third loss in four games.