San Juan, PR (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Michigan Wolverines and Charlotte 49ers collide in the championship game of the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip- Off on Sunday evening.
John Beilein's Wolverines have posted two wins in this tournament in vastly different ways. Michigan opened tournament play with an 85-61 rout of Long Beach State and followed that with a come-from-behind, 82-80 overtime win over Florida State in Friday's semifinal action. With the victories, the 4-1 Wolverines have put some distance between themselves and their lone loss of the season, a 77-70 setback at Iowa State last weekend.
Alan Major's 49ers are sporting an identical 4-1 record on the year. Charlotte has navigated the tournament field with a first-round victory over Kansas State (68-61), followed by an 86-77 win over Northeastern in the semifinals. Charlotte has now won three straight games since suffering its only loss, a one-point decision at College of Charleston (83-82).
This is just the second time these teams have faced off on the hardwood. Charlotte won the lone matchup, a 75-68 victory in the 1977 NCAA Tournament.
The 49ers used a strong shooting performance to keep Northeastern at arm's length and earn a spot in the championship game. Charlotte shot 50.9 percent from the floor overall and went 10of-16 from behind the arc in the win. It was a complete team-effort, as six players notched double figures, led by Shawn Lester's 20 points. Ben Cherry poured in 18 points, while Terrence Williams (13 pts), Pierria Henry (11 pts), Mike Thorne Jr. (10 pts) and Willie Clayton (10 pts) joined in offensively as well.
Lester hasn't started a single game this season, but he leads the team in scoring at 16.6 ppg. Four starters add to Charlotte's serious scoring depth, with Henry (14.4 ppg), Thorne (13.4 ppg), Clayton (11.8 ppg) and Williams (11.4 ppg) all producing at a high level. Henry is not only a top-notch scorer, but also a deft distributor (5.4 apg). Clayton spearheads the play on the glass (9.2 rpg).
The Wolverines showed their mettle in their thrilling win over a very tough Florida State team on Friday. Nik Stauskas took over the game late in regulation, rallying UM from a 16-point deficit by scoring 23 of his career- high 26 points in the second half and overtime to propel Michigan to victory. Derrick Walton Jr. added 15 points, Mitch McGary came off the bench to post a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Glenn Robinson III netted 13 for Michigan.
Stauskas has played at an All-American level early on, averaging 20.4 ppg. The senior guard is shooting .518 from the floor overall, .515 from 3-point range (17-of-33) and leads the team in assists (3.6 apg). Three other Wolverines are averaging double figures in support of Stauskas' exploits, with Caris LeVert (14.2 ppg), Robinson (13.4 ppg) and Walton (11.0 ppg) providing balance and depth. Michigan is currently enjoying a +16.0 scoring margin, averaging 79.8 ppg, while allowing just 63.8.