Thursday, January 30, 2014

Observations from Charlotte's victory over FAU

Observations from the 49ers' 62-53 victory over FAU:

-- The 49ers cleaned up a lot of what's been ailing them in the last few weeks. Most notably was the defensive effort, which limited FAU to 37.5 shooting from the field, 26.1 percent from 3-point range. Of Charlotte 42 rebounds, 29 were defensive, as well. Forward Willie Clayton said that was a point of emphasis a practice this week.

It was also a season low for points allowed for the 49ers.

"If you hold a team to 37.5 percent shooting, you're not going to lose too many games," said coach Alan Major.

The 49ers also committed just 11 turnovers and went 16-of-20 (80 percent) from the line.

-- Owls coach Mike Jarvis compared Major to Red Auerbach. Well, kind of. Well, not really. But here's what he said about 49ers sixth man Shawn Lester and his game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds:

“He had a big time effect. He’s a weapon. It’s very smart of (Major) to have a guy like that.
“There used to be a guy in Boston named Red Auerbach who liked to have his sixth man normally be one of his best players. I wish I could be afforded that luxury.”

-- Denzel Ingram, who has been 1-2 the Conference USA 3-point accuracy rankings with teammate Ben Cherry, has cooled off significantly recently. Ingram missed all three of his 3-pointers against FAU. He's 0-for-10 over the last four games after going 16 of 24 in the five previous games.   

-- There was a brief video tribute and moment of silence before the game for former 49ers great Lew Massey, who died last week.

-- Florida International (11-10, 3-3), Charlotte's Saturday opponent at Halton, lost 80-68 at Marshall on Thursday.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lew Massey's funeral set for Saturday

The funeral for former 49ers star Lew Massey, who died Jan. 23, will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at H.O. Graham Metropolitan Church, 2926 Old Steele Creek Rd, Charlotte, NC 28208. Visitation will be from noon-1 p.m.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Another hard-to-explain loss by Charlotte 49ers

It's becoming difficult to figure out this Charlotte 49ers team.

The 49ers (12-7, 3-3) have some impressive victories this season. They beat Kansas State and Michigan in Puerto Rico. They're the only team to beat UTEP in Conference USA so far and handed Tulsa one of its two league losses.

But it's confounding and frustrating defeats -- especially Saturday's 81-79 loss at Rice and at UTSA two weeks ago -- that are defining the 49ers as they head into a two-game home stand that includes Florida Atlantic on Thursday and Florida International on Saturday.

Rice had been winless in C-USA and broke a 16-game conference losing streak in beating Charlotte. UTSA has lost three straight since beating Charlotte.

So what's going on? We don't know about Saturday from coach Alan Major, who didn't appear on the postgame radio broadcast at Rice and came out of the locker room after The Observer's deadline, according to a team spokesman (full disclosure: I did not travel to cover the Rice game or Thursday's 20-point loss at Louisiana Tech).

-- Turnovers have cropped up. Charlotte averaged 21 (24 against Louisiana Tech, 18 against Rice) on this road trip. Rice scored 17 points off those 49ers mistakes; La. Tech had 27. Forward Willie Clayton accounted for 14 of them (eight against Rice, six against La. Tech).

-- The 49ers played virtually no 3-point defense against the Owls, with Rice hitting 12-of-24 long-range shots. And Charlotte, C-USA's best 3-point shooting team,went a combined 8-of-29 against Louisiana Tech and Rice. Denzel Ingram, the league leader in 3-point shooting percentage, was 0-for-6 in the two games. Cherry was 1-of-2 against Louisiana Tech and didn't attempt a 3-pointer against Rice.

-- But the biggest problem appears to be how Charlotte opponents are taking control in the second half, which is something that's tougher to quantify. The 49ers were able to rally from late deficits in home victories against Tulsa and North Texas. But they lost first-half leads against Louisiana Tech and Rice and couldn't recover (although a last-second shot by Ben Cherry that would have tied it against Rice missed). Pierria Henry, so stellar in the late going in those victories against Tulsa and North Texas, had fouled out against the Owls.

Major has said that's a product of a young team still not appreciating the value of each possession -- whether it's early in the first half or late in the game. There continue to be lessons to be learned, he has said, about how to play for a full 40 minutes.

The conference season is young. Charlotte can get back on track later this week against the Florida schools at Halton, where they are 7-2 this season.

Major might be correct in saying the 49ers are young, with Cherry the team's only senior. Players like sophomore center Mike Thorne, sophomore guard Shawn Lester and backup freshman forward Marcus Bryan have plenty to learn.

But the 49ers are also a young team with plenty of experience, with juniors  Henry and Terrence Williams and sophomores Clayton and Ingram all well-seasoned enough to have already learned those lessons.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Charlotte 49ers' Gentile turns pro

Charlotte 49ers junior striker Giuseppe Gentile is leaving school early after being obtained Friday by the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer’s waiver draft.

Gentile, who played at Ardrey Kell High, is tied for 10th on the 49ers career scoring list with 27 goals. Gentile’s most productive goal-scoring year was 2011 when he scored 10 times on his way to national freshman player-of-the year honors. He was the Atlantic 10’s rookie of the year as well as an all-Atlantic 10 second-team player as a sophomore. He made first-team all-Conference USA in 2013 with eight goals and three assists.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Charlotte 49ers women face Tulane at Halton

A tough nonconference schedule might be paying off for the Charlotte 49ers' women's basketball team.

The 49ers (9-8, 3-1), who host Tulane (12-5, 3-1) in a Conference USA game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Halton Arena, learned plenty from a nonleague slate that included games (and losses) against South Carolina, Kansas State, Minnesota and Cincinnati.

"The record wasn't what we wanted, but the product of it is what we wanted," said coach Cara Consuegra. "Our team was challenged. It helped our young kids know that they didn't have it all figured out."

The 49ers' fast start in Conference USA -- they also play at home Saturday against Rice -- has been spurred by junior forward Gabby Tyler, who averages 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in league games, and guard Hillary Sigmon. Tyler missed last season with a concussion and three games this season due to injury and illness. Tyler tied a career high with 22 points (going 10-of-11 from the field) and had 12 rebounds in a victory against UTEP last Saturday. Sigmon (Hickory High) had 32 points in that game and has moved into third on Charlotte's 3-pointers made career list.

"Gabby has stepped up big for us and regained the form she had in her previous two years at Charlotte," said Consuegra. "She's been a dominant force inside and opens things up for our shooters, because she gets double-teamed every time.

"You saw sparks of it coming with her during nonconference. But during conference play her numbers have been incredible. She deserves it because she's been through a lot."

Monday, January 20, 2014

49ers' Barnwell arrested

-- Charlotte 49ers redshirt freshman running back Alan Barnwell was arrested Sunday on charges of driving with a revoked license and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Barnwell was released on $600 bond. The drug charge is a misdemeanor.

Barnwell was Charlotte's second leading rusher last season with 636 yards and five touchdowns.

-- The 49ers received a commitment from Tyler Fain, a 6-3, 260-pound defensive end from Chesapeake, Va. Fain also had interest from East Carolina, Marshall, Norfolk State and Hampton.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Observations from Charlotte 49ers' victory over North Texas

Observations from the Charlotte 49ers' 76-74 victory against North Texas on Saturday:

-- Charlotte (12-5, 3-1) went 2-0 on this brief home stand is tied for third in Conference USA with UTEP and Tulsa, two teams the 49ers have already beaten. Big challenge coming Thursday at Louisiana Tech (13-3, 3-0), which can take over sole possession of first place in the league with a win against Southern Miss on Sunday.

-- Both victories (Thursday's against Tulsa went to overtime) were exciting and memorable -- but not the kind of games the 49ers want to keep playing. They were down eight points late in both games until big plays by Pierria Henry bailed them out. Coach Alan Major said Saturday he has complete faith in Henry's decision-making and ability to execute in those late situations -- going to the basket on three straight possessions to force OT against Tulsa and his dish to Terrence Williams for a game-winning dunk Saturday.

"The big thing is we want the guys to capture that level of intensity from tip to buzzer," said Major. "When you have that, you have the chance to play with a lot of people."

-- North Texas led by 11 with 13 minutes left when Major called for a 1-3-1 zone that completely threw the Mean Green out of its offense. North Texas scored just two points in the final 4:31.

"We wanted to see if they could handle it," said Major. "We got a few buckets and turnovers out of it."

-- Free throw shooting should be a source of concern for Major. After missing 20 against Tulsa (going 22-of-42), his team was 11-of-19 against the Mean Green. That's 33-of-61 (54 percent) over two games.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Observations from Charlotte 49ers' victory over Tulsa

Observations from Charlotte's 90-86 OT victory over Tulsa:

-- Pierria Henry knew exactly what he was doing as he was scoring the 49ers' final six points of regulation on three consecutive layups.
As he penetrated on each of those three final possessions, he knew Denzel Ingram, Terrence Williams, Ben Cherry and Shawn Lester were spotted up on the perimeter. If a Tulsa defense collapsed on Henry, he could kick it out to one of them. But that never happened. Golden Hurricane defenders allowed Henry a seam to the basket and he took advantage each time.

-- The 49ers have become a very dangerous 3-point shooting team. Ingram was 5 of 6 and Cherry 2 of 4 against Tulsa, so they both continue to be at or above the 50 percent mark for the season. It's a weapon the 49ers haven't had in recent seasons.

-- That said, the 49ers were nearly undone by their on-ball defense and some highly shaky free-throw shooting. Tulsa's guards were much quicker than Charlotte's and got to the basket all night. And the 49ers were just 22-of-42 from the free throw line. That mark got better as the game progressed (Charlotte was four of 12 at halftime), but it nearly cost them the game.

-- Henry's line: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals. He had six turnovers, however, many of them on forced passes inside.

-- The victory moved Charlotte (11-5, 2-1) into a second-place tie in C-USA with five other teams. Next up is North Texas (10-7, 1-2) Saturday at Halton.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Charlotte 49ers land Georgia receiver

The 49ers have received a commitment from receiver T.L. Ford of Cartersville, Ga., a three-star recruit (according to who decommitted from Kansas State.
Ford is a high school teammate of quarterback Brooks Barden, who has signed with the 49ers and enrolled this semester, and receiver Mark Quattlebaum, who has verbally committed to Charlotte.
Ford (6-4, 180 pounds) had 589 receiving yards last season for a 19.8-yard average.
On Tuesday, the school announced that five recruits – including Barden and a transfer from Syracuse – have signed and are enrolled in school for the spring semester.
Defensive end Josh Manley (6-foot-2, 269 pounds), who played in one game for Syracuse last season, and is from College Park, Ga., will sit out the 2014 season and will have three seasons of eligibility left.  Barden threw for 2,323 yards and 41 touchdowns last season at Cartersville and ranked as a three-star prospect by Also enrolling are defensive back Branden Dozier and safety Nick Cook, both of Butler (Kan.) Community College and tight end Richard Murphy of Butte (Calif.) Community College.

49ers coach Brad Lambert also announced linebacker Micah Bryan, who was dismissed from the team last season to take care of family issues, hasn’t returned to school.

Read more here:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Observations from UTSA

SAN ANTONIO -- Observations from Charlotte's 85-77 loss to UTSA on Saturday:

-- The loss was mystifying on a few levels: The 49ers were in position to go 2-0 on the road to open their Conference USA schedule, and had seemed to have passed a tougher assignment Thursday at UTEP. But for whatever reason -- blame it on the coaches (as Alan Major did) or the players (as Ben Cherry did) -- the 49ers weren't ready to play against a UTSA team that was 4-9 in the nonconference and had lost to a Division III team in November.

-- The 49es continue to be erratic on offense and their defensive effort comes and goes. Charlotte began Saturday's game going inside to 6-11 Mike Thorne, who had four shots (making one) in the first 3 minutes. But the 49ers then seemed to forget about Thorne, who finished with just 6 points after scoring against UTEP. UTSA's guards, especially Devon Agusi, were too quick for Charlotte and got to the rim time and again.

-- Charlotte has cut its turnovers down this season, averaging 14.0 per game (it averaged 15.3 last season). But the 49ers had 12, many on sloppy passes, in the first half, a major reason why they were down by 10 at the half.

--  Shawn Lester must have had quite an outburst at coaches at the end of the half. Lester didn't play in the second half because of it. Major said it wasn't a big problem, but it must have been to bench the team's leading scorer when his offense was sorely needed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Charlotte 49ers football recruiting update

The Charlotte 49ers continue to round up prospects as national football signing day approaches Feb. 5.

The 49ers have signed a junior college transfer this week, received a commitment from a local high school player and are also bringing in a quarterback from another Football Championship Subdivision program.

Charlotte, which went 5-6 in its first season in 2013, signed tight end Richard Murphy of Butte (Calif.) Junior College. Murphy was most valuable offensive player of the California junior college championship game in December. Murphy (6-foot-3, 245 pounds) caught five passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.

The 49ers signed two transfers from Butler (Kan.) Community College in December: defensive back Branden Dozier and linebacker Nick Cook.

Charlotte got its 20th high school commitment, the most recent coming from Monroe defensive back Tre’Shun Wynn, a three-star prospect. Wynn also had offers from East Carolina, Duke and Appalachian State.

Finally, a source confirmed that freshman quarterback Garrison Duncan is transferring to Charlotte from Delaware State. Duncan, who played at East Forsyth High, didn’t play for the Hornets last season and will have to sit out 2014. He threw 1,505 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 1,410 yards as a high school senior.

Observations from Charlotte 49ers' victory at UTEP

EL PASO, Texas -- Observations from the 49ers' 73-68 victory Thursday at UTEP:

-- 49ers opponents were averaging 72.3 points before Thursday's game, a number coach Alan Major earlier this week said was too high for his liking. He said he'd prefer it to be in the 68- or 69-point range and, after the 49ers limited the Miners to 41.8 percent shooting, that's what he got in the 49ers' first Conference USA game.

-- Say what you will about how limited the Miners were due to three players being dismissed from the team for gambling, any win on the road -- especially in a tough place to play like UTEP's Haskins Arena -- is a good one. It wasn't pretty for Charlotte, but that didn't matter.

-- Keys to the victory were the continued resurgence of center Mike Thorne, who had 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds; 8 first-half points by guard Shawn Lester; and Terrence Williams' 14 points. Williams' field-goal percentage is 33.6, but he's hit 50 percent of his shots in the last four games. Williams has become a reliable 3-point shooter, too, making 43.5 percent from long range. Although he didn't try a 3 against the Miners, he's made seven of his last 10.

-- The 49ers didn't make it easy on themselves in the final minutes. After going ahead 68-60 on a pair of free throws by Williams with 3:39 left, Charlotte made just 3 of 8 free throws the rest of the way. Thorne also committed two fouls in 15 seconds, fouling out with 2:18 left. Then there were two turnovers, one that led to a layup by UTEP's Julian Washburn with 25 seconds left that cut Charlotte's lead to 4.

-- Pierria Henry missed some practice time this week with a head injury (he got bopped on the noggin in a practice after the N.C. A&T game). He was in foul trouble most of the night against UTEP, but finished with 13 points, 7 assists and 4 turnovers.

-- Best victory of the season for the 49ers now has become, not Michigan, but Kansas State in Puerto Rico. The 25th-ranked Wildcats (12-3) lost the next game in the tournament against Georgetown, but have won 10 straight, including victories against Gonzaga and Oklahoma State.

-- Next up for the 49ers is UTSA (5-9, 1-0), which beat Marshall 90-81 Thursday.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Charlotte 49ers' women open C-USA slate

The Charlotte 49ers' women's basketball team opens Conference USA play Wednesday with a game against Old Dominion at 7 p.m. in Halton Arena.

Coach Cara Consuegra's 49ers (6-7) are coming off a 78-57 victory against UNC Wilmington last Friday. The Monarchs (7-7) beat N.C. Central 68-44 on Sunday.

Senior point guard Ny Hammonds leads Charlotte at 11.6 points per game. She has 59 assists this season and is needs is two short of claiming fourth place on the school's all-time list. Forward Gabby Tyler's 7.2 rebounds per game also leads Charlotte.

Shae Kelley leads Old Dominion with 16.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN 730 AM. Charlotte's game against Tulane on Jan. 22 will also be on the radio.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Observations from victory against N.C. A&T

Observations from the 49ers' 88-72 victory Saturday over N.C. A&T:

-- It wasn't until the 49ers dialed up the defensive pressure in the second half that the Aggies wilted. Charlotte outscored A&T 48-32 in the second half and ended the game with 30 fast-break points off of 29 defensive rebounds and 11 Aggie turnovers.

"We got stops, a little bit of pressure," said point guard Pierria Henry of the defensive effort that seemed to be lacking in the first half. "We had great communication and (on turnovers) we were getting the ball ahead and finding the open man. When we're engaged, focused and dialed in at the same time, it's hard to beat us."

-- The 49ers, while looking for consistency as they hit Conference USA play next week, have found one area where they've been dangerous: 3-point shooting. The 49ers were 10 of 19 against the Aggies, which follows games against USC Upstate and Georgia Tech in which individual players (Ben Cherry and Denzel Ingram) were hot. They're now shooting 37.1 percent for the season from long-range, with Ingram and Terrence Williams above 40 percent and Cherry at 51.1.

-- Center Mike Thorne had one of his better games in recent weeks with 12 points and 7 rebounds. But it wasn't until the 49ers decided to focus on Willie Clayton down low that they were able to take control of the game. Clayton, who had 3 points and 3 rebounds at halftime, ended with 13 points and 8 boards.

-- Henry's line: season-high 23 points (3 of 5 from 3, made all 6 free throws), 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, 1 turnover. Nothing to add to that.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Charlotte 49ers sign two JC players

-- The 49ers signed two players from Butler (Kan.) Community College in December:

Branden Dozier, a 6-0, 203-pound defensive back from Topeka, Kan., was second on the team with 61 tackles last season and had an interception. Nick Cook, a 6-2, 220-pound linebacker from Wichita, Kan., had 58 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. He also had a fumble recovery, which he returned 61 yards.

Dozier and Cook played on teams that were 20-3 over the last two seasons and won two Jayhawk Conference championships. Butler was second in the final NJCAA poll in 2012 and finished sixth in 2013. They will enroll at Charlotte when classes resume this month.

-- The 49ers baseball team signed nine players for the 2015 season:

Devin Bagwell, P, Mooresville Southlake Christian; Jacob Craver, P, West Stokes; Trevor Gay, P, High Point Central; Matt Horkey, P, Jamestown Ragsdale; Josh Maciejewsk, P, Cary Panther Creek; Alon Smith, P, Hopewell; Brett Netzer, IF, Fort Mill (S.C.); Alex Reynolds, IF, Kings Mountain; Hunter Jones, P/IF, Monroe Piedmont.