Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Observations from Duquesne

Observations from Charlotte's 88-77 loss to Duquesne on Wednesday:

-- Duquesne was a team in trouble. The Dukes had lost three straight and were scoring an average of 57.3 points and shooting 37.8 percent during that stretch.

Hello, 49ers and their welcoming defense.

The Dukes' 88 points were a season-high for a Charlotte opponent, as was their 59.3 percent shooting.

“It was a simple case of lost identity,” said 49ers coach Alan Major. “Our identity is defense. That’s who we are. We didn’t defend to the level we needed to, that we’re capable of playing. There’s really no ‘X and O’ dissertation needed. It was one team being who they were and one not.”

Charlotte tried a 2-3 zone defense, a tactic that has befuddled the Dukes all season. Didn't matter. Duquesne forward B.J. Montiero found openings on the baseline for 21 points -- including nine in a row at one stretch.
The 49ers need to tighten things up for their Saturday game at Xavier, which will be honoring seniors like Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease. After that will be a first-round Atlantic 10 tournament game Tuesday on  the road -- likely against a team like Massachusetts, Dayton or La Salle.

-- Charlotte's Chris Braswell finished the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He had 11 points and nine boards at halftime. It wasn't until the 8:35 mark of the second half that he scored again. Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said the Dukes were willing to give up perimeter shots to focus defensively on Braswell (Charlotte was 11 of 25 from 3-point range).

-- Derrio Green, who hasn't had much playing time recently, played 17 minutes. First thing he did upon entering the game was hoist a 3-pointer, which swished.

-- Braswell was honored before the game for scoring his 1,000th career point (last week against George Washington).
 -- The 49ers were victimized by Atlantic 10 steals leader T.J. McConnell, who had five. Charlotte had 20 turnovers for the game. Charlotte's Pierria Henry, who is second in the league behind McConnell, had just one steal and that got that by corralling a lazy pass in the backcourt.


Trio of Charlotte 49ers women's baskeball players gain Atlantic 10 honors

Three 49ers women's basketball players were honored by the Atlantic 10 today:

-- Senior guard Epiphany Woodson is the league's Sixth Player of the Year. Woodson also made the all-conference third team and the all-academic team.

-- Forward Jennifer Hailey was selected to the all-conference second team and the league's all-defensive team.

-- Freshman guard Hillary Sigmon made the all rookie team.

-- The rest of the Atlantic 10 women's post-season honors.

The sixth-seed 49ers play Saint Louis in the first round of the league tournament Friday in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Charlotte 49ers jockeying for tournament position

Charlotte 49ers news and notes:

-- Although the Atlantic 10 hasn't made it official, the 49ers have clinched a spot in the league's men's basketball tournament next week.

If Charlotte (currently tied for 11th with George Washington) finishes tied for 12th with either Fordham and Rhode Island, it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with either of them. They also hold all the tiebreakers if they were to finish in any combination of a three-way tie for 11th with Rhode Island, Fordham or George Washington.
While it's likely Charlotte (13-14, 5-9) will finish somewhere in the 9-12 range in the standings (meaning they would have to play on the road in the first round next Tuesday), there's a remote chance the 49ers could finish eighth and thus get a home game.

But they would have to win their two remaining games (Wednesday at home against Duquesne; Saturday at Xavier) to do that, and get help from elsewhere.

-- 49ers junior forward Chris Braswell will be honored before the Duquesne game for scoring his 1,000th career point recently.

-- The sixth-seed 49ers face No. 11 Saint Louis in the first round of the Atlantic 10 women's basketball tournament Friday 7:30 p.m. at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia. Charlotte (16-11) and the Billikens (10-19) split their regular-season games, with the 49ers winning 61-52 in Halton Arena and Saint Louis winning 70-69 on Feb. 22.

The winner faces third-seed Dayton on Saturday.

-- Charlotte's softball team, off to an 8-5 start, is host to South Carolina (10-3) at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The 49ers, who went 4-1 in the 49ers Classic last weekend, have been getting strong play from freshman outfielder Alex Rogers, who is hitting .390. The 49ers are then off to San Diego, where they will play five-game tournament at San Diego State over the weekend.
-- Charlotte's baseball team, which played at Winthrop on Tuesday, is back home against Wagner this weekend. The 49ers haven't lost a series at home since February 2009. Charlotte, incidentally, isn't playing North Carolina this season because dates couldn't be worked out. The Tar Heels are expected to be back on the schedule next season.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Observations from George Washington

Observations from the 49ers' 72-62 victory Wednesday over George Washington at Halton Arena:

-- The Atlantic 10 won't make it official yet, but it appears Charlotte has clinched a spot in the conference tournament. With three games remaining, Charlotte is in 11th place with a 5-8 league record, ahead of George Washington (4-9) and Fordham and Rhode Island (both 2-11).

The worst that can happen to the 49ers is a three-way tie for 12th at 5-11 with GW and either Fordham or Rhode Island (the two Rams teams play each other, so only one can get to five victories). The A-10's tie-breaking procedure for multi-team ties is the team with the best combined record against the other teams involved in the tie.

Charlotte would be 2-1 (1-1 against GW, 1-0 against either Fordham or Rhode Island).

GW would be 2-1 if the tie was with Charlotte and Rhode Island; 1-2 if it was with Charlotte and Fordham.

Fordham could be 1-1 (0-1 against Charlotte, 1-0 against GW).

But that's a long way off. If Charlotte beats St. Bonaventure on Saturday and either Fordham loses to La Salle or Rhode Island falls to Saint Louis, the 49ers are in without having to worry about tiebreakers.

Although they might be in already. The league will look into it Thursday or Friday.

-- Good to see Derrio Green get substantial minutes (18) and play well against the Colonials. Green made two 3-pointers in the second half, and although he missed both his free throws and missed a layup after a steal, he was pivotal in the 49ers' victory. He's been through a lot the last few weeks, playing just nine minutes in five games (three DNPs).

-- And a tough break for forward K.J. Sherrill, who'll miss the rest of the season with a broken arm suffered in the first half. Remember, Sherrill missed 10 games last season with a knee injury. Sherrill's absence will likely mean more minutes for Ilija Ivankovic, who played a season-high five minutes Wednesday.

 -- It didn’t take Charlotte center Chris Braswell long to become the 24th player in school history to score 1,000 points in his career. Braswell entered the game with 992 points and he scored Charlotte’s first nine points to reach the plateau quickly. Guard Jamar Briscoe already hit the 1,000-point mark earlier this season.
-- Small forward DeMario Mayfield has essentially become the 49ers’ backup point guard. When Pierria Henry is out of the game, Mayfield takes over at the point, even when Briscoe (last year’s starter at point guard) is in the game.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chiquita Stadium? Not happening for 49ers

The power of Twitter caused a minor stir at UNC Charlotte late last week.

When Chiquita Brands International CEO Fernando Aguirre tweeted -- jokingly apparently -- that UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois had started a rumor that the school’s new football stadium would be named for Chiquita, it got plenty of attention.

But it appears there are currently no plans that the 15,000-seat stadium’s naming rights -- worth $5 million to the school -- will go Chiquita, the international conglomerate that is relocating to Charlotte.

As Aguirre put it at the end of his tweet: LOL.

"Fernando had a great chance to visit with Chancellor Dubois last week and get a great tour of the UNC Charlotte campus,” Chiquita spokesman Andrew Ciafardini said in an email. ”He was very impressed. We are in the process of exploring some small partnerships with the Univeristy (including an IT internship program) but at this time there are no plans for any sort of naming rights or sporting sponsorships."

Aguirre visited the 49ers’ campus late last week. Afterward, Aguirre -- a frequent tweeter -- posted on this account (#fdoAguirreCEO):

“#UNCCharlotte building the #ChiquitaStadium ? Oh yes, Chancellor Dubois started the rumor. I thanked him already. LOL”

The #ChiquitaStadium “hashtag” drew some attention, with one 49ers fan inviting Aguirre to support the school’s football team, which begins play in 2013.

UNCC officials had no comment, but were not taking Aguirre’s tweet too seriously. One source said Dubois might have “mentioned” naming rights to Aguirre, but not in any kind of formal proposal.

Dubois and athletics director Judy Rose continued to pursue naming rights to the stadium, which will be finished this fall. The stadium’s field already has been named McColl-Richardson Field, in honor of local business and sports icons Hugh McColl and Jerry Richardson. They have donated a substantial amount toward the $2.5-million goal for field naming rights.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Observations from Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. -- Observations from the 49ers' 53-52 loss Saturday to Richmond:

-- Yes, Charlotte might have won had the 49ers shot free throws better (the 49ers were 9 of 19). But the game wouldn't have been as close it was had the 49ers not forced the Spiders into a season-high 19 turnovers. Charlotte scored 18 points off those turnovers and had eight steals. Three came from Pierria Henry and Deuce Briscoe.

Still, missing all those free throws hurt. The 49ers have become inconsistent from the line. They were 17 of 20 against Dayton on Wednesday; 19 of 38 last Saturday against Rhode Island. And although coach Alan Major doesn't like to single out any certain aspect of a game as being crucial in a win or loss, he did this time:

"You might say if we make two more, we win the game," he said.

-- Charlotte had 10 offensive rebounds and scored eight points off them. They needed to convert just one more of them to win it, though, and had the chance -- twice -- at the end of the game.

-- Senior guard Derrio Green played for the first time in four games. Green, a former starter who was the team’s leading scorer last season, hadn’t played since the La Salle game Feb. 1 (and he played just four minutes then). Green played five minutes in the first half, missing both his shots and making a steal.

-- Charlotte freshman E. Victor Nickerson and Richmond’s Alonzo Nelson-Ododa were high school teammates at Norcross (Ga.) in suburban Atlanta.

-- The 49ers went scoreless seven minutes in the first half as Richmond jumped to a 12-point lead. Charlotte missed 10 of its first 13 shots, but recovered to cut Richmond’s lead to 25-19 at halftime.

-- 49ers forward DeMario Mayfield, who was suspended one game (at Dayton on Wednesday) for a misdemeanor marijuana possession arrest earlier in the week, didn’t start but played 30 minutes, scoring 7 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and being right in the middle of that frantic final few seconds.

-- The loss didn't really hurt the 49ers (4-8) much in the standings (although Richmond moved up to sole possession of ninth place), where they are tied for 11th with George Washington. The Colonials (Charlotte's opponent Wednesday at Halton Arena) lost to Saint Joseph's. There's still a cushion above Fordham (2-10) and Rhode Island (2-11), who both lost and remain in 13th and 14th, respectively. 

49ers-Richmond: What to watch for

RICHMOND, Va. -- Three things to watch for in today's Charlotte-Richmond game at sold-out Robins Center.

-- The Spiders average an Atlantic 10-low 11.1 turnovers, while Charlotte averages 8.8 steals, second most in the league. So a key matchup will be between Charlotte point guard Pierria Henry, who averages 2.8 steals, and Richmond's Cedrick Lindsay, who has a 1.7 assists-turnover ratio.

-- Charlotte's next four games are key as the 49ers (tied for 10th in the A-10) jockey for position for the conference tournament: Richmond and George Washington (at home Wednesday) are tied with Charlotte in the win column (four victories). The next two games, both at home against St. Bonaventure (next Saturday) and Duquesne (Feb. 29) are against teams just ahead of Charlotte, with six league victories.

-- Charlotte is 6-7 overall on the road (second-most road wins in the A-10 behind first-place Temple, which is 8-3). Center Chris Braswell is a big reason for that: He's averaging 20.5 points on the road, including 22.0 in the last three conference games).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

49ers' Mayfield arrested for marijuana possession

DeMario A. Mayfield
Charlotte 49ers sophomore forward DeMario Mayfield was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana early Tuesday. Mayfield, who was released on $250 bond, had been stopped by Charlotte police at 1:57 a.m. for failing to stop at a red light, according to Mecklenburg County Sheriff records.

Mayfield was suspended for the 49ers’ game Wednesday at Dayton by coach Alan Major for what the school said was breaking undisclosed team rules. Mayfield is scheduled for a March court appearance.

Mayfield, in his first season playing for the 49ers after transferring from Georgia, is averaging 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Major and athletics director Judy Rose would not comment on Mayfield’s arrest, or say what Mayfield’s status with the team is. Charlotte’s next game is Saturday at Richmond.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

49ers, App State possibilities for new league?

Charlotte's name is coming up as a possibility when and if a potential new league formed by a merger of Conference USA and the Mountain West eventually expands.

An report today reports that sources indicate the 49ers are a candidate to join the new 16-team league if it expands. And East Carolina chancellor Steve Ballard said Tuesday that Charlotte and Appalachian State would be a good fits for the league (which still hasn't been officially formed).

"We’d love to consider Appalachian State and Charlotte down the road in a few years," Ballard said at a news conference in Greenville, N.C., Tuesday. "Charlotte has to get (football) up and running. But Charlotte as a university has all kinds of advantages and would add basketball talent to the conference."

The new CUSA/MWC league would be tilted decidedly to the west, with East Carolina, Marshall and Alabama-Birmingham the only eastern schools. Ballard said the league could expand and divide into four regionally based divisions -- making the additions of schools such as Charlotte and Appalachian a logical option. 

The 49ers, who begin playing football in 2013 and are now in the Atlantic 10 in other sports, will start as an FCS independent, but hope to move up to FBS at an undetermined time. Appalachian State recently announced it wants to move from FCS to FBS when the timing is right.

 49ers athletics director Judy Rose has been unavailable for comment. Appalachian State athletics director Charlie Cobb said through a spokesman that the Mountaineers are looking at all available options.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

49ers land West Meck safety

West Mecklenburg safety Prince Mayela signed with the 49ers on Monday, according to Hawks coach Jeff Caldwell. Mayela (5-11, 180), who is the school's senior class president a member of the National Honor Society, had four interceptions last season and recovered five fumbles. He was All-ME-GA 7 conference player and made The Observer's All-Mecklenburg team. -- David Scott

Monday, February 13, 2012

Henry's steals: By the numbers

49ers point guard Pierria Henry was named the Atlantic 10's rookie of the week for a second time this season on Monday. Henry earned the honor after a big game against Rhode Island (14 points, 3 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 assists.)

Henry remains second in the league in steals (2.8 per game), but he's closing the gap on leader T.J. McConnell of Duquesne (2.9). Henry is also tied for fourth nationally in steals.

Henry's five steals against the Rams gives him 58 for the season, most in school history for a freshman. He broke Keith Williams' record of 54 set in 1983-84.

It's unlikely Henry can break the school record this season. Eddie Basden had 93 in 2004-05 (a 3.2 average). But Henry is on pace to challenge Delano Johnson for second most. Johnson averaged 2.8 in 1990-91 (77 total) and Williams averaged 2.7 in '84-85 (72 total).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rhode Island observations

Observations from Charlotte's 73-66 victory Saturday against Rhode Island:

• The 49ers looked as sharp as they have in a while in the first half, opening up a 19-point lead, their largest lead of the season in the first half.  The 49ers' 40 points in the first half were a season high, as was its 15-point halftime lead.

A lot of that came over a Rhode Island zone, and the 49ers cooled off considerably when the Rams went man-to-man.

• But, of course, things could have been easier if the 49ers had been better at the line. They were 19 of 38. Deuce Briscoe was 4 of 10 and Pierria Henry 8 of 15 and DeMario Mayfield 5 of 9.

• It was homecoming for the 49ers and more than 50 former 49ers basketball players were introduced at halftime following an alumni game earlier in the day. Also on hand was Lee Rose, coach of the 1977 Final Four team.

• Henry had five steals and now has 58 for the season, a Charlotte freshman record.

• As Rhode Island tried to get back in the game in the second half, Mayfield flung a pass out of bounds. The pass was so off the mark that it sailed behind the 49ers bench. Mayfield smiled sheepishly and pointed to himself, taking full blame.

• Mayfield's double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) was his third in the last four games.

• Derrio Green didn't play again. He's now been a DNP for two straight games and played just four minutes against La Salle three games ago.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mayfield's new routine

DeMario Mayfield has changed up his free-throw routine and that's making all the difference in the world for the 49ers' small forward.

Mayfield was having a woeful season from the line through Charlotte's game against Xavier on Jan. 28, banging in just 44.0 percent of his free throws. Some of those misses were costly too: With Charlotte holding a two-point lead against East Tennessee State, Mayfield missed two free throws and the Bucs came down the floor and won the game 70-69 on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

But in Charlotte's last three games, Mayfield has made 20-of-25 free throws (80.0 percent). Included in that was a 9-of-11 performance Saturday in a victory against Fordham.

One reason for Mayfield's improvement seems to be a change in his free-throw routine. He no longer dribbles before he takes his shot. He just receives the ball from the referee and shoots.

"I don't think he's done anything particularly special," said coach Alan Major. "He's just simplifying it up there. Some guys need to take a lot of dribbles. But now the ref just hands him the ball, he takes it and shoots it. It's more of a mental thing for him. Credit to the kid."
Mayfield's new-found success at the line might not be the stuff of legend, but don't tell Xavier coach Chris Mack that, not after Mayfield helped keep the 49ers in a game against his team by making 6-of-8 free throws.

"He turned into Mark Price," said Mack, referring to the NBA's career free-throw percentage leader.

-- With a week off between the Fordham game and Saturday's home game against Rhode Island, Major said practice would focus more on what the 49ers need to do early in the week, then the attention will turn to the Rams later.

"We've been going so long with play, prep, play, prep," said Manor. "This allows you to back to us being the only team we talk about for a few days. It'll be back to almost an Oct. 15 mentality."

-- Here's what Major said about his decision not to play senior guard Derrio Green against Fordham:

"I wouldn't say anything except that it was a game-flow decision. We played a lot of zone and it proved to be effective (Fordham shot 30.9 percent). We wanted to be as big as we could, especially up top."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

49ers' Derrio Green: Odd man out in backcourt?

Looks like senior Derrio Green has become the odd man out in the Charlotte 49ers' backcourt rotation.

Green is averaging career-lows in minutes (19.6) and points (7.0) this season. But it's been the past four games that have been the most telling about where Green stands in Charlotte's guard hierarchy: He's no longer starting and didn't play against Fordham on Saturday (a 69-62 Charlotte) victory, the first time that's happened in his career.

In this four-game stretch (Temple, Xavier, La Salle, Fordham), Green is averaging 10 minutes and 2.0 points. He didn't score at La Salle on Wednesday, when he played four minutes.

These aren't numbers normally associated with Green, who led the 49ers in scoring last season (13.1) and averaged 35.4 minutes per game.

Why has Green's role diminished so much? He's not the kind of defender coach Alan Major wants and his always-suspect shooting has finally caught up with him.

Green didn't start against Temple because he violated undisclosed team rules, according to coach Alan Major. He was on the bench again against Xavier, Major said, because of his perimeter defense. Against La Salle, Major said Green played so little because "he's probably not shooting it as well as he wants to."

Major has made no secret of the fact that he values size on the perimeter. At 6-0, Green is 4 inches shorter than freshman Terrence Williams, who has taken up many of Green's minutes. And Green has never been even an adequate shooter (34.9 percent his first two years and 31.9 percent this season). Deuce Briscoe (last season's starting point guard who lost his job to freshman Pierria Henry) has started the last four games (he had 12 points against Fordham).

Green is one of those guys who's not a great shooter, but he's always been able to score. He was Charlotte's most dynamic player last season, a gutsy penetrator who found ways to help the 49ers win more than a few games (Xavier, Fordham, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Wright State and Mercer).

But this has been a different kind of season for Green. Will he play his way back into more minutes in the rotation? Time, which is running out, will tell.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Burlington RB signs with 49ers

Alan Barnwell, a running back from Burlington Cummings High, became the 49ers' 25th football signee today. Barnwell, 5-9, 165 pounds, was the Mid-State 2A player of the year, rushing for about 1,700 yards and 25 TDs as a senior.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

49ers land 3-star recruit

The 49ers just received a letter-of-intent from offensive lineman Casey Perry, a 3-star recruit from Durham Hillside.

Perry, 6-3, 295 pounds, was considered about an inch short for FBS schools, according to a feature story about Perry in the (Raleigh) News & Observer last fall. He'd also been recruited heavily by Appalachian State and Western Carolina and had committed earlier to Gardner-Webb.

"It's huge," said 49ers recruiting coordinator Phil Ratliff of landing Perry. "It shows we can go against the established programs for these kids. It's hard to see how 1 inch makes much of a difference with a player like Casey."

The 49ers have signed 23 players as of 1:15 p.m. today, most recently adding Perry, Ayden-Grifton running back/defensive back Kariym Gent and West Montgomery quarterback Jaquil Capel. Capel had already committed verbally to Appalachian State.

Big morning in 49ers football offices

Charlotte 49ers head football coach Brad Lambert arrived at his office in the Barnhardt Student Activities Center at 6:50 a.m. this morning, giving him a few minutes to prepare for the rush of activity that was coming his new program's way.

Ten minutes later, the fax machine rang and the first of the 49ers' new football signees -- Will Thomas, 6-0, 165-pound slot receiver from Topsail High in Hampstead -- was sending in his letter of intent. A few seconds later, Maiden quarterback Matt Johnson became the 49ers' second official player.

That's how it's been all morning, as 20 players have officially signed with the 49ers through 11 o'clock. Lambert and the rest of his staff have been huddling in a meeting room -- a wide-screen television tuned into ESPNU's coverage of national signing day on one wall. On the other is a board with each position listed, names posted as the LOIs come in.

It's a popular place to be in the athletic department. A steady stream of people come and go, helping the coaches kill time while waiting for more commitments to come through. Breakfast was served in the hallway. The coaching staff also gets ready to watch a highlight video of their new players that will be released tomorrow

Then, one coach walks out, toward the fax machine. Another player -- this time Lakeside, Ga., linebacker Kendal Parker -- is on the line. And the big board is updated.

signing day roundup UPDATE

UPDATED 1:30 pm

The letters-of-intent are coming in fast and furiously at the 49ers football office as Charlotte's first football class is assembled. Here are the 23 players who have faxed their LOIs through 10:30 this morning:

 -- OL, Casey Perry, Durham Hillside, 6-3, 295

 -- QB/ATH, Jaquil Capel, West Montgomery, 5-11, 175

-- RB/DB, Kariym Gent, Ayden-Grifton, 5-11, 186

-- DB, Greg Cunningham, West Charlotte, 6-2, 180

-- QB,  Karsten Miller, Lexington, 6-3, 175

-- C,  Jared Barr, Monroe Sun Valley, 6-3, 285

-- WR, Austin Duke, WR, Independence, 5-8, 160

-- LB, Rick Legrant, LB, Buford, Ga., 6-0, 205

-- DB, Tank Norman, DB, Richlands, 5-11, 180

-- OL, Mason Sledge, OL, Monroe, 6-4, 250

-- WR, Jamel Ross, WR, Cary, 6-2, 215

-- OT, Jamal Covington, OT, Hampton, Ga., 6-4, 220

-- DL, James Middleton, DL, St. Stephen, S.C., 6-4, 250

-- QB Matt Johnson, Maiden, 6-3, 210

-- ATH Justin Bolus, James Island, S.C., 6-3, 205

-- LB Terry Caldwell, Wilmington Hoggard, 6-0, 200

-- OL Thomas LaBianca, Porter Ridge, 6-3, 282

-- LB Mark Pettit, Western Guilford, 6-6, 235

-- ATH Will Thomas, Hampstead Topsail, 6-0, 165

-- ATH Jalen Holt, South Stanly, 6-3, 220

-- DE Brandon Banks, Southwest Guilford, 6-3, 245

-- DT Larry Ogunjobi, Jamestown Ragsdale, 6-2, 267

-- LB Kendal Parker, Lake Park, Ga., 6-1, 215