Sunday, December 29, 2013

Observations from Charlotte 49ers' loss to Georgia Tech

Observations from Charlotte's 58-55 loss to Georgia Tech on Sunday:

-- There was question about why the 49ers gave Tech's Trae Golden so much room to shoot on his game-winning 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds left. Coach Alan Major said they didn't want Golden to drive to the basket or foul him -- and Golden was making just 24.3 percent of his 3-pointers coming into the game. So it was probably a sound strategy. Credit goes to Golden for making the shot, if Denzel Ingram might have been a bit late contesting it.

-- Second straight game that a 49ers guard has had an excellent shooting night. Ingram had a career-high 20 against the Yellow Jackets (on 8 of 10 shooting, 3 of 5 3-pointers), just a week after Ben Cherry did the same with a career-high 20 of his own. Cherry didn't score on 0-of-2 shooting against Georgia Tech, however.

-- As Conference USA season nears, the 49ers need to get center Mike Thorne's game back. Thorne has struggled since his big game at Appalachian State (26 points, 8 rebounds). Since then, he's had 4 points and 7 boards against Florida State, 4 points and 5 rebounds against USC Upstate and 3 points and 5 rebounds against Georgia Tech.

-- Pierria Henry was held out of the starting lineup for a second straight game, this time for returning late (by a few minutes, according to Major) from Christmas break.

-- Golden has played against the 49ers before. As a freshman at Tennessee, he played 13 minutes and scored one point in Charlotte's 49-48 victory against the Vols at Time Warner Cable Arena in 2010. He transferred to Georgia Tech this season.

-- One game remains for Charlotte before the C-USA schedule begins, Saturday at home against N.C.A&T (3-10).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Observations from Charlotte 49ers' victory over USC Upstate

Observations from Charlotte's 81-76 victory against USC Upstate:

-- Pierria Henry and Willie Clayton didn't start as punishment for their ejections against Florida State (Denzel Ingram and Shawn Lester starting in their place). Although their absence didn't seem to matter -- the 49ers (8-3) jumped out to a quick lead -- Henry especially never seemed to adjust to not being out there at the start. Although he had eight assists, he missed the only shot he took and fouled out in 26 minutes.

-- USC Upstate got back into it with the excellent 3-point shooting from Torrey Craig and some tough interior play by 6-11 Michael Buchanan. The Spartans hung with the 49ers on the boards (trailing just 32-30) and allowed Charlotte just  nine second-chance points off 10 offensive rebounds for the game. The 49ers entered the game averaging 14.0 offensive boards.

-- This was Ben Cherry's coming-out party for the 49ers. He scored a career-high 20 on 6-of-8 3-point shooting. Upstate coach Eddie Payne admitted his team gave Cherry too much space to shoot (especially in the first half when Cherry was 4-of-5) and paid dearly for it. Remember when Cherry missed his first nine 3-pointers of the season? He's 22-of-34 since (64.7 percent).

-- As shaky as the 49ers were in the second half, this was a good one to win after the Florida State game. It gives them some confidence as they get ready for another ACC opponent in Georgia Tech on Dec. 29 at Halton. Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory knows the 49ers well: he coached against them at Dayton in the Atlantic 10 for years.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Observations from Florida State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Observations from the 49ers' 106-62 loss to Florida State on Tuesday:

This was not a good moment for a program hoping to continue on an upward trajectory under fourth-year coach Alan Major. Not only was it the most lopsided defeat in the school's Division I history -- eclipsing a 42-point loss against Duke in 2009 -- but it came with the added indignity of having two players thrown out of the game (Pierria Henry receiving two technical fouls for taunting, Willie Clayton for a flagrant-2 foul).

On the basketball side, the 49ers might have been outmatched anyway by the bigger, more athletic Seminoles. But Charlotte clearly didn't come ready to play, which shouldn't happen in a game against a quality opponent such as FSU. After the Seminoles jumped to an early lead, the 49ers became "spooked," according to guard Ben Cherry.

Charlotte (7-3) has beaten teams from "power" conferences before under Major: Georgia Tech (the 49ers' opponent later this month), Tennessee, Kansas State and Michigan. They've also lost badly before (by 31 to Miami last season). But the Seminoles did everything better than the 49ers (rebounding, shooting, hustling, blocking shots), who were clearly not equipped to deal with all that, at least not on this night.

"It wasn't so much that we weren't physically tough," said Cherry. "We weren't mentally tough."

Henry and Clayton are both ultra-competitive and obviously frustrated at how the game had turned out. Major said their actions were "not excusable." Henry is normally cooler than what he exhibited. Clayton, who had several friends and family members from his home in nearby Thomasville, Ga., at the game, continues to get tangled up in these off-ball elbow-throwing incidents (as he did as a freshman last season).

These are the two players Charlotte needs most to move forward -- and to get back on a track that they might have slipped from Tuesday.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Observations from Charlotte 49ers' victory at Appalachian State

BOONE -- Observations from the 49ers' 77-59 victory Sunday over Appalachian State:

-- Charlotte gave a glimpse of what it's going to need to be successful this season: Contributions from its big men, all that Pierria Henry does and the spark from the bench that guard Shawn Lester provides.

Center Mike Thorne had a career-high 26 points and eight rebounds and power forward Willie Clayton had his seventh double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds), forming a combination down low that the Mountaineers had no chance of containing.

Henry, back from his injury that kept him out of the Davidson game, scored nine points, had seven assists, six steals and three rebounds.

Lester came off the bench to score 10 points, all during a first-half run that put the Mountaineers away. One basket came on a scoop layup that found its way from behind the backboard and around a defender. Another came on a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer off an inbounds pass.

-- Appalachian coach Jason Capel said that's all a tough combination.

"They're big, you start there," said of the 49ers. "I don't think Clayton can jump over a phone book, but he doesn't have to because he's going to hit you really hard all game. Pierria Henry controls the team, he's got a calming aura about him that exudes on the team. Lester and Terrence Williams are world-class athletes. When you've got big guys like that and one of the best point guards in the country, you've got a great team."

-- The victory evened Major's record at 51-51 in four-plus seasons at Charlotte.

-- Lester entered the game leading the team in scoring (15.0) and averaging 5.1 rebounds. Of his 41 total rebounds, just one was offensive. He pulled down one more offensive board against Appalachian (five total), making his total for the year 44 defensive, 2 offensive.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Observations from Davidson's 87-78 OT victory the Charlotte 49ers

Observations from Davidson's 87-78 overtime victory Wednesday over the 49ers:

-- No Pierria Henry for Charlotte, no De'Mon Brooks for Davidson -- it was a wash. Although Denzel Ingram played a turnover-free game, Henry's defensive presence was missed, as well as his ability to control things at crunch time, when the 49ers were often left with ill-advised long jumpers. Davidson didn't stand a chance on the boards without Brooks, and that's what happened with Charlotte outrebounding the Wildcats 42-30. Brooks would certainly have been able to bang with the 49ers' Willie Clayton (12 boards).

-- The 49ers knew of Davidson's ability to get to the basket, both off the dribble and by back-door cuts, but didn't do much about it until they went into a zone.

-- Davidson's Chris Czerapowicz had made six 3-pointers all season, and made four against the 49ers.

-- A guess is that Henry won't be back Sunday at Appalachian State, but would return for the Dec. 17 contest at Florida State.

-- Center Mike Thorne wasn't much of a factor, a testament to Davidson's swarming interior defense. He had four points on 1-of-6 shooting and seven rebounds.

-- First time Davidson's ever won at Halton. Wildcats coach Bob McKillop remembered some great games from the past, including a 49ers victory in which Charlotte's Leemire Goldwire and Davidson's Stephen Curry engaged in a 3-point extravaganza.

Bone bruise for Charlotte 49ers' Henry; out for Davidson game

Charlotte 49ers point guard Pierria Henry has a bone bruise on his left knee and won’t play Wednesday night against Davidson. His status for Sunday’s game at Appalachian State is uncertain.

Henry hurt his knee late in Sunday’s victory against UNC Asheville.

Henry had started 50 consecutive games and 12. points, 6.3 rebounds. He has 18 assistsnd 12. points, 6.3 rebounds. He has 18 steals and 41 assists.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Observations: Charlotte 49ers 77, UNC Asheville 56

Observations from the 49ers' 77-56 victory Sunday against UNC Asheville:

-- The victory came against the backdrop of the sight of point guard Pierria Henry being carried off the floor by teammates Willie Clayton and Shawn Lester after Henry banged knees with a Bulldogs player late in the game. Coach Alan Major wouldn't speculate on the nature or severity of the injury, except that Henry will see a doctor Monday morning.

-- The 49ers got some serious firepower out of their shooting guards, with Ben Cherry, Shawn Lester and Denzel Ingram going a combined 8-of-15 from 3-point range. Ingram (4 of 5, 14 points) provided the spark in the first half, Lester (2 of 5, 16 points) lit the fire in the second half. Cherry, who was 0 for 9 from behind the arc through Charlotte's first three games, is 11 of 17 since.

-- 49ers big men Clayton (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Mike Thorne (12, 9) got lots of compliments from UNC Asheville coach Nick McDevitt, who said they were as tough and athletic a pair as his team has played, and the Bulldogs have played Duke and Kentucky.

-- The game got off to a rough start for 49ers guard Terrence Williams. He said something that referee Ted Valentine didn't like and got a technical.

-- The 49ers had a relatively rare good night on turnovers-assists ratio (16 to 11). Before he left the game, Henry was struggling offensively (1 of 9 from the field, 2 points), but he had 7 rebounds, 8 assists and just 1 turnover). He didn't have a steal, which is a rarity, as well.

-- Wednesday's game with Davidson might be played without the teams' stars, depending on Henry's injury and the status of Wildcats forward De'Mon Brooks, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury.