SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Shawn Lester had 20 points and Ben Cherry added 18 as Charlotte overpowered Northeastern in the final 10 minutes to preserve an 86-77 victory in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The win was the 49ers third straight and sets up a championship game matchup with the winner of Florida State and Michigan on Sunday.Charlotte led by nine at halftime, but had to stave off a flurry by Northeastern, which tied it back up with less than 10 minutes to play in the game.The Huskies went cold for a spell from both the foul line and the field, though, and were never able to take the lead back as the 49ers knocked down their free-throws in the closing minutes.Northeastern's Scott Eatherton had 22 points and 11 rebounds to post his second straight double-double of the tournament. Demetrius Pollard added 14 points.Trailing by nine at the half, Northeastern kept chipping away at the lead and ran off an 8-0 spurt to tie it 51 at the 12:27 mark.It was tied again at 58, but Eatherton came up empty on a pair of free-throw attempts.The Huskies had several more opportunities to take the lead, but squandered each of them with missed baskets or turnovers.Meanwhile, Charlotte settled down in its half court attack.The 49ers got a little breathing room on a 3-pointer by Terrence Williams that made it 65-58, and he scored again a few trips later to push it to 69-60 with only 4:22 showing on the clock.Charlotte led 43-34 at halftime, thanks largely to its accuracy from beyond the arc. The 49ers connected on 8 of their 14 attempts and led by as many as 13 points. Cherry had the hottest hand, with six 3s and 18 points in the opening 20 minutes.They also had 10 assists and defensively made it tough for the Huskies, who shot 35 percent from the field in the half.