SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — It's early in the season, but one thing UNC Charlotte coach Alan Major wanted to see from his team entering its trip to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off was how tough it could be.
Through one game, he likes what he sees.
Mike Thorne had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Denzel Ingram added 12 points as UNC Charlotte held off a late second half charge and beat Kansas State 68-61 Thursday in the opening game of the three-day tournament.
"We talked before the game about how physical the game was going to be and the mantra and the thing we've been chatting about is toughness," Major said. "I just thought the guys showed great toughness from beginning to end."
Charlotte (3-1) led by as many as 13 points in the second half and won its second straight despite being held under 80 points for the first time this season.
"It definitely gives us confidence," Ingram said. "Kansas State is a very good team and it's going to look good down the road."
Nigel Johnson led the Wildcats with 14 points, who had a two-game win streak snapped.
The Wildcats (2-2) led only once in the game, and struggled in the paint where they were outrebounded 46-34. It was the third time this season they have been beaten on the boards.
"We gotta fight on the boards," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "We gotta have five guys there. We know we're a little undersized, so it's gotta be team rebounding. We gotta be there."
K-State also tied a season-high with 12 turnovers, but Johnson said Charlotte's multiple-defensive looks were expected.
"We were ready for it, but in the heat of the game of course it's a little different than when you're practicing," he said.
Charlotte had a clear advantage underneath with Thorn and Willie Clayton, but Weber said he liked the grit shown inside. D.J. Johnson played most of the second half with four fouls and was able to avoid picking up his fifth.
Still, the 49ers were able to connect on big shots down the stretch.