NEW YORK -- Charlotte certainly showed it could score points at a sudden, improbable -- and bizarre -- rate at the end of its Atlantic 10 first-round win over Richmond. But it was an early scoring spree by top-seeded St. Louis that left the ninth-seeded 49ers shaking their heads Friday after the Billikens' 72-55 win in the quarterfinals.
Dwayne Evans led No. 16 St. Louis with 25 points and nine rebounds in the victory at the Barclays Center, and Cody Ellis added 13 points. But Billikens guard Mike McCall Jr. provided Charlotte an early glimpse of the stunned feeling the 49ers left Richmond with at the end of Thursday's game by sparking a 13-0 surge in just over two minutes in the first half that gave St. Louis control of the game.
Charlotte, which played its last Atlantic 10 game before switching to Conference USA next season, had even more concern as it lost guard Pierra Henry with a few minutes left in the game. The sophomore, who had hit eight free throws in the final four seconds of the wild win over Richmond on Thursday, was sent to the hospital, according to 49ers coach Alan Major.
"Very, very concerned, to be quite honest with you," Major said of Henry, who had collapsed on the court with 3:48 to play after minimal contact with the Billikens' Jordair Jett, then struggled to breathe for several moments. "A guy has a tough time breathing ... not sure what that means."
Major said the whole team planned to visit Henry at the hospital and that a replay showed the contact to be "almost like an incidental thing" before athletic director Judy Rose cut him off and said no more information could be revealed due to HIPPA laws. Major said he had no more information anyway.
The Billikens (25-6, 14-3), who forced 13 Charlotte turnovers in the first half and 20 for the game, will play the Butler-La Salle winner in the semifinals Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
"I just thought that the start of the game we really got off to a good start. Our defense generated a lot of good things from an offensive standpoint," St. Louis coach Jim Crews said after his team won for the 13th time in its past 14 games. "We're really pleased to beat a good Charlotte team and tournament time is tough, so we know we've got another tough one tomorrow."
Chris Braswell had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead Charlotte (21-11, 8-9). Henry scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds.
The 49ers had just cut an 11-point deficit to three midway through the first half, pulling to 19-16 on Braswell's 3-pointer. Charlotte hoped to challenge the favored Billikens long enough to pull off another crazy ending like it had against Richmond, when the 49ers wiped out a three-point deficit in the final seconds.
But then McCall scored seven points and had two assists to lead a 13-0 surge that put St. Louis up 32-16. Though Charlotte eventually drew within seven, the Billikens never relinquished control of the game from that point.
"Teams are gonna make a run against us all the time and we just need to go 100 percent and try to make a run ourselves," McCall said of the Billikens' quick response.
The spurt by St. Louis wasn't nearly as wild as the 49ers' free-throw frenzy to beat Richmond in the first round, but it was nearly as effective at sealing this game, even though it occurred with plenty of time left in the first half. The 49ers acknowledged afterward that St. Louis had disrupted them.
"Once I hit that 3, try to stay together and keep pushing," Braswell said of his team's mind-set after his 3-pointer cut the deficit to 19-16. "We kind of fell away from that. Like Coach Major said, we weren't our team today, so we kind of fell away from that.
"They were just speeding us up. We were just rushing, trying to make home-run passes. They got some steals, they were just beating us up."
Trailing by 11 at halftime, Charlotte did get within seven, when Braswell hit another 3-pointer to make it 43-36 with 13:05 left in the second half.
But St. Louis reeled off the next 10 points, with Evans scoring six of them, including a jumper with 9:20 left that put the Billikens up 52-36.
"It's good because we have a bunch of guys who are good 3-point shooters, so it leaves the inside open," Evans said of his team's inside-outside combination.
NOTES: Henry entered the game with three straight double-doubles but was held in check, especially in the first half, when he scored just four points and had three rebounds. ... The Billikens, who have been ranked for the past three weeks, have earned a national ranking in consecutive weeks for the first time since the 1993-94 season while also winning their first outright conference title since 1957. ... St. Louis handily beat both fourth-seeded La Salle and fifth-seeded Butler this season, with both games at home for the Billikens. St. Louis topped the Explorers 78-54 in the regular-season finale and beat then-No. 9 Butler 75-58 on Jan. 31. ... Major said his team would gladly accept an NIT bid if one was offered, before checking with Rose, who nodded in agreement. ... Major acknowledged he was concerned about an emotional hangover for his team after the wild win Thursday. "That was a serious emotional deal yesterday," he said. " ... The thing's on ESPN 24 hours."