Galen Young hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds to play to help North Carolina Charlotte hang on for a 55-52 win over No. 7 Cincinnati in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament on Friday night.
Top-seeded Cincinnati (26-5) took its only lead of the second half on Melvin Levett's free throw that made it 52-51 with 2:48 to play. Neither team was able to score until Young made a running bank shot in the lane with 27 seconds to play to put the 49ers (21-10) up 53-52.
Levett, who had already missed all eight of his 3-point attempts, missed again and Young got the rebound. Levett fouled to send Young to the line.
It marked the second time this season North Carolina Charlotte has beaten Cincinnati. The 49ers handed the Bearcats their first loss of the season, 62-60 on Jan. 14.
Cincinnati had a miserable shooting night (1-for-17 from 3-point range) but had been able to stay in the game with solid free throw shooting.
But the Bearcats came up empty at the line when it counted most. With 2:48 to play, they were 18-for-19 from the line, but missed four of their final five free throws.
The Bearcats weren't very aggressive most of the night, especially in the first half when they weren't selective with their shots. They were 0-for-9 from 3-point range and only eight of their points were scored inside.
That allowed North Carolina Charlotte to control the tempo and make it a low-scoring contest, two factors that have worked against Cincinnati all season. All five of the Bearcats' losses came when they scored 60 points or less.
The 49ers took the lead 12-11 with 11:12 to play in the first half and only trailed once from there.
Cincinnati was able to pull within 26-25 on Levett's jumper with 1:01 to go. But Diego Guerva converted a four-point play and Kedric Smith hit an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the 49ers their largest lead, 33-26 at the break.
Norh Carolina Charlotte picked up where it left off in the second half when Guerva made the first basket, a 3-pointer that made it 36-26.
The Bearcats then got seven straight from Steve Logan to make it 38-33 with 15:03 to play and keep North Carolina Charlotte from pulling away.
Kelvin Price finished with 11 points for the 49ers, while Young and Tremaine Gardiner both scored 10.
Levett led Cincinnati with 12 points, despite shooting just 3-for-13. Pete Mickeal and Logan both had 11 and Kenyon Martin scored 10.
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