CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—An’Juan Wilderness scored a career-high 21 points and Leemire Goldwire hit the clinching free throw with 1.5 seconds left to lead Charlotte past cold-shooting Wake Forest 63-59 on Thursday.
Goldwire, held to 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting, hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second as the 49ers (4-2), overcame 39 percent shooting with suffocating defense.
James Johnson had 14 points and 14 rebounds, L.D. Williams scored 13 and Harvey Hale added 12 points for the Demon Deacons (4-1), who shot 35 percent and committed 22 turnovers in their first loss.
Goldwire’s only 3-pointer in nine attempts, with 3:02 left, put Charlotte ahead to stay. The 49ers led 60-54 with 1:28 left, but Wake Forest got within three on Jamie Skeen’s 3-pointer with a minute left.
Wilderness hit two free throws with 9.8 seconds left, and after a Wake Forest hoop, Goldwire sealed it at the line in a bruising game that featured four technical fouls for pushing after the whistle.
Charlotte improved to 1-1 against the Atlantic Coast Conference after a loss to Georgia Tech in the Paradise Jam.
Wake Forest is one of four ACC teams to schedule games at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, site of the league tournament for the first time.
Charlotte, the home team, had never played in the arena before and perhaps the lack of familiarity was the reason for the 49ers’ dreadful shooting early on.
Charlotte missed 18 of its first 23 shots, including when Phil Jones lost control of the ball on the way up for a hook shot, sending the ball clear over the top of the backboard.
The 49ers were only down 29-24 at halftime thanks to their constantly changing defenses that forced 13 Wake Forest turnovers.
It was the Demon Deacons’ turn to go cold to start the second half. They missed 10 straight shots, not getting a field goal until Skeen’s 3-pointer cut Charlotte’s lead to 39-37 with 12:03 left.
Wake Forest, which also shot poorly in its win Monday at Iowa, couldn’t overcome it this time as coach Dino Gaudio couldn’t match the late Skip Prosser’s 5-0 start from last season.
The Demon Deacons held a 48-34 rebounding advantage, but shot just 5-of-21 from 3-point range.