CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Freddie Riley's frustrating season hit a new low with a scoreless game that got him into the gym for extra shooting.
The hard worked paid off Wednesday as he played with a heavy heart.
Riley hit four 3-pointers and scored 18 points as Massachusetts pulled away after halftime to secure its best Atlantic 10 start in four years with a 73-54 victory over cold-shooting Charlotte.
Anthony Gurley added 17 points and Javorn Farrell had 11 for the Minutemen (11-6, 3-1), who snapped Charlotte's six-game home winning streak with stifling defense and Riley's hot stroke.
"I basically just got tired of shooting bad," Riley said. "They always tell me that I have a pretty good jump shot but I've got to work at it. That's what I've been doing."
Spending extra time launching jumpers in the gym since missing all three shots Saturday against La Salle, Riley hit 7 of 12 shots and half of his 3-point attempts, giving UMass needed variety on offense.
"We haven't really had a lot of scoring options other than Anthony Gurley for most of the year," coach Derek Kellogg said. "And guys are starting to figure out who can be that second, third and fourth scoring option. Freddie should be in that two, three, four category, but he's been up and down a little bit as far as shooting the ball this year."
The sophomore's big performance came a night after he found out an old friend from his hometown of Ocala, Fla., had been killed.
"I dedicated this game to him," Riley said.
Derrio Green had 12 points on 2-of-10 shooting and Chris Braswell had 11 points and seven rebounds for the 49ers (9-9, 1-3), who were done in by long scoring droughts in each half.
Charlotte, which shot 32 percent from the field, went more than 7 1/2 minutes without scoring in the first half as UMass built a 35-27 lead. Then the 49ers went more than 7 minutes without a field goal after halftime to thwart a comeback bid.
"For sure we got tested today mentally and physically," Braswell said. "We just couldn't get nothing going on the offensive end."
Riley's 3-pointer with 5:42 left made it 59-45 and the rest of the game turned into an "old fashioned woodshed" beating, according to Charlotte coach Alan Major.
It was another successful trip to Charlotte for UMass, which last March beat the 49ers in the first conference tournament victory for the school since 2002 in what turned out to be 49ers coach Bobby Lutz's final game before he was fired.
Now the up-and-down Minutemen, who have won three of five with two 29-point losses, are starting to play again like the team the started 7-0.
"It's nice that we've started 3-1, but this league is unforgiving," Kellogg said. "We come at noon on Saturday with Richmond, which is really one of those NCAA tournament level teams in our conference."
The game started with a furious pace and with 3-pointers swishing from everywhere. Charlotte took a 23-20 lead just over 8 minutes in before Braswell picked up his second foul and the 49ers' offense derailed.
"I think we just got hung up shooting too many jumpers," Major said, "and it got the game going at a pace that probably fit them a little bit more than us."
Charlotte missed 12 of its final 13 shots of the half, failing to connect from long range or inside the paint. UMass was also struggling against Charlotte's zone until Riley went on a personal 7-0 run to close the half.
The 49ers got within three, 39-36, on An'Juan Wilderness' hoop with 16:24 left before going cold and failing to keep the momentum after Saturday's home win over Fordham.
The lack of depth up front played a role.
Down to eight scholarship players due to discipline, academic and eligibility issues, the 49ers were outrebounded 40-32 and managed just 14 points in the paint.
Major and Kellogg coached barefoot to raise awareness for Samaritan's Feet, a nonprofit organization that provides shoes to impoverished people around the world.