CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—Leemire Goldwire scored a career high 33 points and Charlotte pulled away in the second half for an 84-78 win over Appalachian State on Monday.
Goldwire, a senior and only full-time starter from last season’s team, hit 8 of 15 shots, five 3-pointers and made 8 of 10 free throws in the final two minutes to help Charlotte (2-0) get off to its best start since the 2000-01 season.
The speedy Goldwire hit two 3s and had a driving layup in a 9-2 run to start the second half that put the 49ers ahead to stay.
Charlotte’s lead ballooned to 71-60 on An’Juan Wilderness’ bucket with just under 7 minutes left. The Mountaineers cut it to seven with under 2 minutes left, but Goldwire put it away at the free throw line.
Charlie Coley and Ian Andersen added 10 points apiece for the 49ers (2-0), who rallied from a six-point halftime deficit using a fast-paced style and crashing the glass against the smaller Mountaineers.
Kellen Brand scored 16 of his career high 27 points in the first half and Donte Minter added 19 points and six rebounds for the Mountaineers (0-1), who shot 58 percent, but were outrebounded 31-25.
Brand’s steal and layup midway through the first half ignited the Mountaineers, who trailed early by 10 points. Brand hit four 3-pointers in the first half, including on consecutive possessions to give Appalachian a 34-31 lead.
Doug McLaughlin-Williams’ 3-pointer at the buzzer completed a 56 percent shooting half for the Mountaineers, who led 41-35 at halftime with their former coach, Buzz Peterson, sitting courtside. Peterson now works in the Charlotte Bobcats’ scouting department.
Appalachian State had to replace its senior backcourt from last season’s team, which won a school-record 25 games and lost in the first round of the NIT. Ryann Abraham, who scored 11 points, started at point guard.
But Appalachian State had trouble on the boards and Wilderness was able to stymie Brand in the second half as the 49ers often changed defenses.
They also had no answer for Goldwire, who surpassed his 30-point effort last season against Dayton when he hit two free throws with 19 seconds left. Goldwire hit 12 of 14 free throws and added six rebounds.