Saturday, December 22, 2012

Florida State Seminoles at Charlotte 49ers observations

Observations from the Charlotte 49ers' 79-76 loss to Florida State on Saturday:

• Charlotte coach Alan Major got emotional - he teared up, actually - when talking about the play of freshman guard Ivan Benkovic. Benkovic, one of the 49ers' best 3-point shooters, entered the game for the first time with 12 seconds and Charlotte trailing 78-73. His instructions: to shoot. Instead, Benkovic passed up an open 3 and passed to E. Victor Nickerson, who nailed a 3 from the corner, cutting the lead to two points. Benkovic got the ball back later, missing a long 3 as the buzzer sounded that would have tied it.

"I want to give credit to Ivan Benkovic," said Major, pausing to compose himself. "He doesn't go in the whole game and he's in there to shoot. Instead he passes to an open teammate. He tries to do the right thing. As a coach, that's all you want, to see your kids do the right thing."

• The 49ers wore black uniforms, something they rarely do, as part of a "Black Out" for fans at Time Warner Cable Arena. The upper deck of the arena was curtained off, making for a more intimate atmosphere for the crowd of 7,249.

• Charlotte's next game is Jan. 2 against UNC Asheville at Halton Arena. Although they're only 5-7, the Bulldogs won at St. John's 72-65 Friday and narrowly lost to N.C. State 82-80 in November. The 49ers are off until Friday, when they'll return to campus for practice.

• Biggest hit of the game was the pick set by Florida State's Terrance Shannon on Charlotte guard Denzel Ingram in the open court. Ingram went down hard, but bounced back up.

• Happy holidays to all.

Halftime: Charlotte 40, Florida State 35

Halftime from Time Warner Cable Arena:

The 49ers lead Florida State 40-35, thanks to an 18-9 run to close the half. Charlotte is holding the Seminoles to 37.9 percent shooting and outrebounding them 14-11.

Florida State guard Michael Snaer leads all scorers with 17 points. Chris Braswell has been a spark for Charlotte, coming off the bench to score 10 points and grab four rebounds.

The Seminoles led 26-22 with 7:02 left in the half before a 49ers rally, fueled by Braswell and point guard Pierria Henry, allowed Charlotte to take control. A free throw by Henry gave the 49ers a 34-33 lead with 2:30 left and Charlotte stretched the lead to 5 by halftime.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

49ers football signs two 4-year transfers

The 49ers added some experience to their football program Thursday, signing two senior transfers from four-year colleges: wide receiver Mikel Hunter from Air Force and tight end CJ Crawford from Marshall.

“With the addition of these two guys we satisfied our need to continue to put age on our team,” coach Brad Lambert said in a statement. “We added some much needed senior leadership to our team.”

Hunter (5-foot-9) is from Rockdale, Ga., had 19 catches for 350 yards in his three-year career with the Falcons (he didn't play in 2012), also rushing for 380 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on an 80-yard run against South Dakota in Air Force's 2011 season opener.

“He’s a senior wideout that brings a lot of speed to the table,” Lambert said. “He has a lot of experience playing at a high level at Air Force. We can throw him the ball or hand him the ball -- he’s done both for them. We’re excited to have him join our program.”

Crawford (6-2) graduated from Marshall earlier this month and will be a graduate student at Charlotte. He caught 11 passes for 107 yards last season for the Thundering Herd and had 21 receptions for 175 yards as a sophomore. He caught a 3-yard, game-winning touchdown pass against Louisville in 2011.

“CJ plays in the H-Back spot and we think we can move him around,” Lambert said. “We can use him as a wideout, a tight end, a back. He’s athletic and can stretch the field for us and he brings a lot of versatility to our offense.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Observations: Radford

 Observations from Charlotte's 68-52 victory against Radford on Wednesday:

-- This was a game the 49ers should have won handily, and they did (despite the Highlanders cutting it to 12 with three minutes left). Charlotte (11-1) had plenty of defensive intensity early and was able to outscore Radford 50-28 in the paint. Although seven of the 49ers' previous 10 victories had been in double figures, they hadn't gotten out of the gate as decisively as they did Wednesday.

 -- That leads Charlotte to Saturday, when the 49ers face Florida State at Time Warner Cable Arena. Things didn't go too well the last time they faced an ACC team -- a 31-point loss to Miami (Charlotte's only loss of the season) last Friday. Players say they learned from that game -- mostly that they have to compete from the opening tip -- and this will be a chance for some redemption. But facing the defending ACC tournament champs Seminoles will be a challenge.

-- Radford had two players from Charlotte in its starting lineup: senior guard Blake Smith (United Faith Christian) and freshman point guard Rashun Davis (Davidson Day), who replaced the injured R.J. Price (ankle), the Highlanders’ second-leading scorer.

-- Heard that 5,300 seats had been sold as of Wednesday to Saturday’s game against Florida State. So, plenty of good ones are still available.

-- Charlotte center Chris Braswell usually comes into the game after four or five minutes. He often announces his presence by shooting a 3-pointer, which sometimes goes in.

-- This season's 9-0 start this season was the best in 49ers history; Charlotte's 11-1 record has now been matched only by the 1976-77 Final Four team's 13-1 start and the 11-1 start of the 1991-92 team that won the Metro Conference title.

Halftime update: Charlotte 38, Radford 19

Charlotte leads Radford 38-19 at halftime.

The first half was mostly about Charlotte’s defense as the 49ers jumped to a 38-19 lead. The 49ers, who entered the game holding opponents to 37.3 percent shooting, limited the Highlanders to 26.7 percent (eight of 30). Charlotte had five steals (three by point guard Pierria Henry), which helped account for eight Radford turnovers, as well as three blocked shots.

The 49ers, on the other hand, had their way offensively with Radford. Among the first-half highlights were an alley-oop pass from freshman guard to freshman forward Darion Clark, as well as back-to-back dunks by guard DeMario Mayfield.

Henry ended the first half with a 3-pointer, giving the 49ers their 19-point lead. Henry and forward Willie Clayton both had eight points at halftime as Charlotte shot 56.6 percent. 

49ers add Kansas State to 2016 football schedule

The 49ers have added a game at Kansas State to their 2016 football schedule -- a Sept. 10 contest that will have added meaning to Charlotte coach Brad Lambert, who was an All Big Eight second-team defensive back for the Wildcats in the 1984.

Lambert says when the 49ers begin play in the FBS' Conference USA in 2013, he hopes to have a game scheduled against a team from an BCS league each year. Charlotte has games scheduled against the Big East's Temple in 2015 and '16, is scheduled to play at Virginia Tech in 2019 and is working on a game against Tennessee in 2017.

“We know those guys out there and we’ve talked about scheduling a game and it’s worked out,” Lambert said in a statement. “Things really changed when we joined Conference USA. They had expressed interest when we were FCS, but I don’t know if it would have happened without us going to Conference USA and the FBS. It will be a good homecoming."   
2013 schedule

Aug. 31, Campbell.

Sept. 7, Chowan; 14, N.C. Central; 21, Bye; 28, at Presbyterian.

Oct. 5, Gardner-Webb; 12, UNC Pembroke; 19, Bye; 26, at Charleston Southern.

Nov. 2, at Coastal Carolina; 9, Wesley (Del.); 16, at Old Dominion; 23, at Morehead State.

2014 schedule (subject to change)

Aug. 28, at Campbell.

Sept. 6, Johnson C. Smith; 13, at N.C. Central; 20, Bye; 27, Charleston Southern.

Oct. 4, at Gardner-Webb; 11, at The Citadel; 18, Bye; 25, Old Dominion.

Nov. 1, at Western Carolina; 8, Coastal Carolina; 15, Wesley (Del.); 22, Morehead State.

Other seasons' schedules (subject to change):

2015: Georgia State (Sept. 3); Presbyterian (Sept. 12); Temple (Oct. 3).

2016: at Kansas State (Sept. 10); at Temple (Sept. 24).
2019: at Virginia Tech (TBA).

--The 49ers have also signed linebacker/fullback Caleb Clayton-Molby from Georgia Military College. Clayton-Molby (6-2, 240 pounds) is from Panama City Beach, Fla., and could play H back or inside linebacker at Charlotte.

-- Three 49ers football players (all receivers) will be on Charlotte's track and field team next spring: Will Thomas will be a high jumper; Austin Duke and Ja'quil Capel will be sprinters.

-- The 49ers baseball team signed eight players  for the 2014 season: Pitchers Brett Bond (Barton, Kan., CC), Matt Davis (Wilmington Ashley High), Eric Eason (Wilmington Ashley); infielders Zach Jarrett (Hickory High), T.J. Nichting (Badin High); pitcher-first baseman Jeremy Schelhorn (Weddington High), third baseman-pitcher Logan Sherer (East Mecklenburg High) and infielder-pitcher Brandon Vogler (Winston-Salem Reagan High).

The 49ers open the season Feb. 15 at home against Delaware State.

-- The 49ers will honor the 2003 women's basketball team that made the NCAA tournament during Friday's game against Davidson at Halton Arena.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Observations: Charlotte 49ers at Kennesaw State

KENNESAW, Ga. - Observations from the 49ers' 66-52 victory Sunday over Kennesaw State:

-- Here's one way to look at Charlotte's nonconference schedule -- which has been criticized as being too soft (perhaps justifiably so), but was not assembled with an eye on helping the 49ers (10-1) get an at-large NCAA tournament berth -- that's not the goal yet of this young team):

The 49ers beat eight of their first nine opponents convincingly on the way to a 9-0 start -- only Davidson was close in the final minute or so. To fall flat the way they did against Miami wasn't what the 49ers wanted, but they have the chance now against Kennesaw and Wednesday against Radford to get back on track. Then they can measure themselves again against Florida State on Saturday, taking the lessons of Miami into it (most importantly, to expect the Seminoles to come at them hard early in the game). Then comes what will be a challenge against UNC Asheville on Jan. 2 before heading into Atlantic 10 play.

-- Kennesaw State's 3-point percentage was 26.5 entering the game. The Owls made 5-of-6 from long range in the first half (tailing off in the second half to finish 6 of 16).

-- Kennesaw State's Convocation Center is small by Division I standards (4,600 capacity), but it is relatively new (built in 2005) and has a very impressive looking, large video board at one end that was installed last summer. The only banner hanging in the building signifies Kennesaw's 2004 Division II national championship.

-- Charlotte center Chris Braswell struggled offensively in the first half, scoring just three points (on three free throws). But he played well defensively, with two steals and one block (although he had another that he wasn't credited with).

-- 49ers point guard Pierria Henry had another solid floor game, scoring seven points (on 3-of-4 shooting, with two assists and four steals (he also had three turnovers).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Observations from Miami vs. Charlotte

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Observations from the 49ers’ 77-46 loss Friday at Miami:
-- Charlotte’s 9-0 start to the season didn’t mean the 49ers were headed for the NCAA tournament. But losing by 31 to a good Miami team doesn’t mean Charlotte can’t continue moving forward with a young, still developing team.
It all depends on how the 49ers react to the loss and what they learn from it.
The schedule, which has criticized as being too soft, will help with that, with games at one-win Kennesaw State on Sunday and Radford on Wednesday at Halton Arena. Those games will give Charlotte ample opportunity to figure some things out about itself against lesser competition, just in time for another test: Florida State next Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Charlotte won’t face many more teams – if any – with the kind of size the Hurricanes have on their front line. Nor will the 49ers see a backcourt as talented as Miami’s duo of Durand Scott and Shane Larkin. Charlotte was beaten down by Miami down low (having 12 shots blocked) and Larkin and Scott both had four steals, in addition to making 3 of 5 3-pointers between them.
-- With the 49ers losing for a first time, it will be interesting to see if coach Alan Major brings Chris Braswell (and maybe DeMario Mayfield) back into the starting lineup.
-- Commencement ceremonies at UNC Charlotte are Saturday. 49ers Mayfield was to fly to Charlotte from Miami on Saturday morning to attend them, then join the team later in the day at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (where the 49ers, believe it or not, are to change planes on their way to Atlanta and Sunday’s Kennesaw State game). Colby Lewis is also graduating, but isn’t attending today’s ceremonies.
-- Braswell and Miami center Reggie Johnson attended a big-man camp last summer in summer in Chicago put on by Nike and the New York Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire.
-- The crowd was sparse at the BankUnited Center. Miami doesn’t usually draw very well and the fact that students were leaving for the holidays didn’t help. The Hurricanes cheerleaders and dance team weren’t even there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Charlotte 49ers: What they're writing

The 49ers' 9-0 men's basketball start is starting to get the attention of the national media. Here's a sampling of what's been written since Charlotte's victory against Davidson last week:

Andy Katz, ESPN, on Alan Major and other former Xavier assistant coaches

Ryan Fagan, Sporting News, on the Davidson victory.

Jeff Eisenberg, Yahoo Sports, says 49ers should be taken seriously now.

Brief mention (at end) from Matt Norlander, CBS Sports.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Observations from Central Michigan

Observations from Charlotte's 78-66 victory against Central Michigan:

-- Pierria Henry didn’t speak with the media after the game, but it’s hard to imagine he would have cursed at the person on his back during Saturday’s loose-ball skirmish had he known it was referee Tracy Woodson (a former N.C. State baseball player who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals). Woodson dove on top of Henry and Central Michigan’s Kyle Randall before they had much of a chance to get things sorted out. Central Michigan coach Keno Davis was also right in the thick of things and also received a tech. He said he was trying to protect the players.

-- Henry won't be suspended for next Friday's game at Miami, since he wasn't ejected for fighting.

-- Charlotte’s 9-0 start is tied for the fifth longest winning streak in school history. Longest is 16 in 1974-75 under coach Bill Foster. The 49ers finished 23-3 that season.

-- The 49ers had 23 assists (led by five apiece by Denzel Ingram and Terrence Williams) on 30 baskets against Central Michigan. “That’s my favorite stat,” said coach Alan Major.

-- Charlotte got a lift when Chris Braswell, DeMario Mayfield and J.T. Thompson -- the team’s three upperclassmen -- entered the game in the first half. Major’s strategy of starting the young guys (three freshmen, two sophomores) and bringing in the more experienced players off the bench, has certainly worked so far.

Charlotte 49ers improve to 9-0 with victory against Central Michigan

The Charlotte 49ers ran their record to 9-0 Saturday with a 78-66 victory against Central Michigan at Halton Arena.

The 49ers were led by guard DeMario Mayfield's 15 points.

The 49ers played the game's final 12:10 without point guard Pierria Henry, who was ejected after getting tangled up with Central Michigan's Kyle Randall going for a loose ball.

The 49ers' next game is next Friday at Miami. Central Michigan plays at Pepperdine on Dec. 16.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Observations from Davidson

DAVIDSON -- Observations from Charlotte's 73-69 victory against Davidson on Wednesday:

-- The 49ers were one of 20 remaining unbeaten teams in the country going into the game, but were labeled a "fraud" by one national columnist on Tuesday, mostly because of the less-than challenging schedule Charlotte had played.

But even more than last season's blowout victory by Charlotte over Davidson, Wednesday's game and the 8-0 record it produced are now real indications that what coach Alan Major is doing with the 49ers' program might be working.

The 49ers are winning with a hustling, energized group of young players, led by a rapidly emerging point guard in Pierria Henry and go-to center Chris Braswell. Charlotte's defense completely knocked Davidson off its offensive axis, hounding the Wildcats into several uncharacteristic turnovers.

"We have five values in our locker room and the first one is humility," said Major. "Nothing is owed us and our next opponent doesn't owe us anything. We've got to come back to the weight room and then practice. Be who you are. Don't lose your identity."
Next up for Charlotte is a game Saturday against Central Michigan at Halton Arena. Looming after that is a game Dec. 14 at Miami.
-- Henry's box score: 11 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 1 turnover. Included in that were Charlotte's last six points, including two free throws with 10.8 seconds left that iced the game.
Davidson's Bob McKillop on Henry: 

"He plays great angles, has long arms and enjoys playing defense. He has the physical tools and the emotional desire. When you combine those two ingredients, it's pretty lethal."

-- The 49ers scored 22 points off 14 Davidson turnovers and got 18 second-chance points off 14 offensive rebounds. McKillop said that was the difference in the game.

-- It was also the first true road game for Charlotte and the first time in hostile territory in the careers of freshmen Darion Clark, Willie Clayton, Denzel Ingram and Ivan Benkovic.

"It was just another game on the schedule against good competition," said Clark, who had 14 points and nine rebounds. "The fans and crowd didn’t really bother me. In my head it was just another game."

Clayton had six rebounds, but kept the ball in play on several occasions, tipping and keeping alive loose rebounds.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Charlotte 49ers football recruiting update


 The Charlotte 49ers got a verbal commitment from Kannapolis Brown running back Kalif Phillips this week, bringing the number of commitments to 15 for Charlotte’s Class of 2013. There won’t be more than a few more – if any -- high school or junior college commitments for the 49ers this recruiting year, although they will likely start bringing in transfers now that the college football regular-season has ended.

Three of Charlotte’s commitments – Spartanburg defensive back Justin Bridges-Thompson, Mallard Creek offensive tackle Tevin Lawshe and South Stanly linebacker Jordan Starnes – are three-star prospects, according to

Here’s a look at the 49ers’ verbal commitments to date:

Justin Bridges-Thompson, DB, 6-2, 195, Spartanburg: Also had interest from  Arizona, Hampton, Memphis, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest

Blake Brewer, K, 6-1, 190, Concord Cannon School: Interest from North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, Tennessee.

Caleb Clayton-Mobley, LB, 6-2, 229, Georgia Military College: From Panama City Beach, Fla., took a year to play junior college ball at GMC.

Dustin Crouser, LB, 6-2, 220, Charleston, W.Va.: Missed second half of senior season with knee injury.

Chris Duffy, RB/ATH, 5-11, 190, Porter Ridge: Rushed for 132 yards and three TDs in state championship loss to New Bern, also had five tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception from linebacker spot.

Eugene German, OT, 6-5, 250, Martinsburg, W.Va.: Had an early offer from Marshall before committing to Charlotte.

Nick Halmon, DB, 6-0, 180, Bamberg-Erhardt (S.C.):  Will play in this weekend’s North-South all-star game in Myrtle Beach.

Tevin Lawshe, OT, 6-4, 275, Mallard Creek: Had several other offers, including East Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Elon.

Devin Pearson, DB/ATH, 5-10, 175, Rock Hill South Pointe High: Helped Stallions to berth in state semifinals.

Kalif Phillips, RB, 5-10, 190, Kannapolis Brown: Averaged 155.6 yards rushing for Wonders this season.

Jordan Starnes, LB, 6-3, 225, South Stanly: Reportedly also had interest from N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Appalachian State.

Jachin Watkins, RB, 6-0, 215, New Bern: Scored four touchdowns against Duffy and Porter Ridge in state championship game.

Ryan Watson, WR, 6-0, 180, Golden West (Calif.) Junior College: Caught 27 passes for 331 yards and three TDs last season.

James Williams, DB, 6-0, 175,  Golden West (Calif.) Junior College: Attended Golden West after playing high school ball in Carson, Calif.

Jamar Winston, DE, 6-8, 240, Dutch Fork, S.C.: Played on state championship runner-up team this season for former Independence coach Tom Knotts.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

49ers-Davidson notes, numbers

One day away from Charlotte-Davidson at the Wildcats' Belk Arena (tip is 8:30 p.m. Wednesday). A few notes and numbers about the game for the Hornets' Nest Trophy.

      -- Charlotte leads the series 27-11.

      -- At 7-0, the 49ers are off to the fastest start in program history. But most strength-of-schedule             rankings place Charlotte's in about the 300 range nationally. Davidson (4-3) has beaten West      Virginia and Vanderbilt and lost to Gonzaga, Milwaukee and New Mexico.

-- One of the series’ more unlikely results was 2011, when the 49ers shot 51.8 percent and won 84-61 at Halton Arena – the largest margin of victory for coach Alan Major in his two-plus seasons at Charlotte. The 49ers would finish 13-17 last season; Davidson was 25-8 and played in the NCAA tournament.

-- This is Davidson’s second home game of the season. The Wildcats beat Division III Emory 93-67 in their season opener at Belk Arena.

-- The 49ers have made more free throws (131) than their opponents have attempted (127). That usually means a team is successful at getting the ball inside.

-- The Wildcats are dangerous from 3-point range, making 40.4 percent of their shots (tied with Virginia Tech for 26th nationally) and second in the Southern Conference. Clint Mann (5-of-8) and Chris Czerapowicz (16-of-32) are both above 50 percent.

-- Charlotte’s field-goal defense of 34.6 percent is tied for fifth nationally with Nevada-Las Vegas, Syracuse and Southeast Missouri State. The 49ers’ scoring defense of 57.9 points per game is tied for 39th.

-- Both teams have deep rotations. Davidson has eight players who average at least 20 minutes (from guard Nik Cochran’s 28.4 to backup guard Tom Droney’s 20.6). Charlotte has 10 who play at least at least 11 minutes per game (from point guard Pierria Henry’s 31.4 to backup guard Ivan Benkovic’s 11.2).

-- Davidson, however, has by far the more experienced team, with all eight of those players either starting or contributing last season. The 49ers, by contrast, have two seniors (center Chris Braswell, forward J.T. Thompson) and one junior (guard DeMario Mayfield) in their top 10.

-- Charlotte’s Pierria Henry is again having a solid defensive season. He’s averaging 2.57 steals, which ranks 29th nationally and is third in the Atlantic 10.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

49ers "staying the course" with Conference USA

   With college athletics conference realignment seemingly changing minute by minute, UNC Charlotte athletics director Judy Rose said Saturday night the 49ers are "staying the course with Conference USA."
   "I don't think this is anywhere near over. I don't know if it will go to four or five conferences with 16 or 18 members," she said.

   "We always keep an eye on what's going on. We did that when all of this started 10 years ago - we kept a pulse on what was going on and said, 'Where do we fit?'

   "We're staying the course with Conference USA. That's where we are and that's where we're staying."

   That doesn't mean Charlotte limited its options, Rose said.

   "We will continue to monitor. We're not looking for something but we're also not going to turn our head if there is a different opportunity that is better for our university."

   The 49ers - currently in the Atlantic 10 - join Conference USA next season in all sports except football, which will be played as an independent in NCAA Football Championship Series subdivision.

   Charlotte's football program is slated to join Conference USA in fall 2015.

   - Jim Utter