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Updated: Wednesday, February 16, 2005 11:35 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(23) Charlotte 66, Depaul 62

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Curtis Withers and Charlotte played just well enough to hold off a furious comeback by Drake Diener and DePaul.

Withers scored 18 points and Brendan Plavich made some key free throws down the stretch as the 23rd-ranked 49ers held on for a 66-62 Conference USA victory over DePaul.

With the victory, Charlotte (17-4, 9-2 C-USA) tied Louisville atop the conference standings, one game ahead of DePaul (16-5, 9-3), which had its winning streak halted at four games.

"Tonight we were able to grind it out," Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said. "We managed to hang in there and find a way to win. You have to win with with different styles, especially come tournament time."

After scoring 10 points to help Charlotte build a 35-29 lead at halftime, Withers hit three consecutive free throws to cap an 11-2 run and extend the 49ers' advantage to 46-35 just four minutes into the second half.

"We got some easy baskets and that got us going," Lutz said of the first half. "Curt, after a slow start, picked it up late in the first half."

Diener scored 17 of his season-high 25 points after intermission to lead the rally for the Blue Demons, who shot 46 percent (12-of-26) in the second half.

Over next 13 minutes, Diener and DePaul chipped away at Charlotte's game-high 11-point lead. He hit four shots from the arc in the stretch, including a 3-pointer with three minutes remaining to give DePaul a 59-58 lead, its first since the six-minute mark of the first half.

E.J. Drayton answered with a three-point play 15 seconds later and Withers added a free throw to give Charlotte a 62-59 lead, but Diener responder with his career-best seventh 3-pointer of the game to pull the Blue Demons even with 1:45 to go.

Mitchell Baldwin's free throw for the 49ers snapped the 62-62 tie with 45 seconds remaining and Plavich made 1-of-2 from the line to give Charlotte a 64-62 edge.

With 7.2 seconds remaining, Diener got a good look at a potential go-ahead 3-pointer, but hit shot hit the front of the rim.

Plavich, who leads the team in scoring, answered with a pair of free throws to clinch the win for Charlotte, which has won four straight.

"I wasn't making shots," Plavich said. "I really felt we wouldn't be in that position (close game) if I was shooting (well) so I wanted to help out with defense and foul shots."

Drayton and Plavich were a combined 4-of-22 from the floor for the 49ers, who shot just 28 percent (9-of-32) in the second half and 36 percent (24-of-67) overall.

"I thought we did a good job taking Plavich out," DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. "When you have a good team, other guys make plays. They proved they didn't need him (Plavich) hitting four of five 3-pointers to win."

Eddie Basden posted 15 points and 10 rebounds and Drayton added 12 and eight for the 49ers, who outrebounded the Blue Demons, 42-39.

Marion Brumfield collected 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue Demons. He managed just two points after halftime.


© 2005 STATS, Inc
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