PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte played much better on Thursday night against nationally ranked IMG Academy than they had the previous night against Victory Rock.

The Ascenders, behind five committed Division I players and a sixth that will have his pick next spring, rolled to an 81-43 win, anyway.

“They don’t have six guys going to the next level for no reason,” Tarpons coach Tom Massolio said. “They fill it up. We picked our poison a few times and it worked for a couple and a couple of times it didn’t.”

The 38-point loss on the second night of the Tarpon Tipoff Classic masked several improvements by the host school. After losing the night before, Massolio challenged the Tarpons to box out on rebounds and execute their offense with more efficiency

“Their effort was way better than it was last night,” Massolio said. “I said bottle that up and use that effort the rest of the year. You’ve got to do that.”

Charlotte was at its best during the second quarter. After falling behind 29-9, it went on a 10-2 run and another 8-3 spree a short while later to pull within 36-27 with 2:28 remaining before the half.

Alas, showing how quickly they could turn a game upside down, IMG blitzed the Tarpons, especially in the final minute, to move ahead 46-28.

“That’s something we’ll have to work on — ending quarters, ending the half, taking care of the ball and getting better shots,” Massolio said.

IMG — ranked either No. 2 or No. 3 in the country depending on the outlet — clamped down in the third quarter and used its superior size to stymie Charlotte at both ends of the floor and trigger the running clock heading into the fourth.

John Gamble led Charlotte with 18 points. Logan Clauser had 10. DJ Woods added 7.

“We were better tonight at moving the ball and getting better shots and so on,” Massolio said. “You can’t shoot bad shots in those possessions and we did a couple of times. That’s like an open-court turnover to them. It’s off to the races.

Memphis-bound Noah Batchelor led IMG with 15 points. Jarace Walker (Houston) had 14, Jett Howard (Michigan) had 12 while Eric Dailey and Jacoi Hutchinson each had 11.

Next up for Charlotte is the Wally Keller Invitational in Kewanee, Illinois on Nov. 26-27.

In the early game, Victory Rock defeated Southwest Florida Christian Academy 69-54.

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