After a tough 87-78 loss to Davidson in the Battle for the Hornet’s Nest Trophy, the 49ers men’s basketball team picked up a hard-fought win against in-state foe Appalachian State in a 77-59 victory on the road to improve to 7-2.
“Good to bounce back yesterday at App. The guys, I thought, sustained it for the most part,” said Head Coach Alan Major in his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon.
“It was good to get a win on the road. Obviously disappointed to lose at home against Davidson.”
The 49ers will take a nine-day break from games as the team knocks their final exams out of the way. The team will not hold practice on Monday, Dec. 9 or Tuesday, Dec. 10. so that they’re able to focus on exams.
“It’s a chance for bodies to heal. It’ll be almost like a training camp mode when we get back to practice on Wednesday, Thursday.”
The 49ers return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 17 on the road at Florida State.
“Land of the giants. Three-seven footers, I think three more 6-9 guys. Very, very talented team,” said Major about Florida State.
“Obviously on a road environment, we’ll have to be ready to go. They’re very good inside the arc. They will shoot some three’s, but they just have so much size that it makes sense for them to get closer to the basket. Just making sure we have a great feel for personnel, who’s trying to do the damage in terms of scoring, and try to keep those guys away from the rim.”
For Willie Clayton and Mike Thorne, Florida State will be their toughest challenge they’ve faced so far this season.
“I would say so because of the depth,” said Major regarding the challenge ahead for Clayton and Thorne.
“I love those two, but they (Florida State) just have more of them. As you progress forward, these are the challenges that teach you where you’re at.”
Charlotte got a first-hand look at Florida State as the Seminoles also competed in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The 49ers hosted Florida State at the Time Warner Cable Arena last season and fell 79-76.
“They’re still a handful in a lot of ways,” said Major.
Florida State’s Ian Miller is one that Major admits will give the 49ers some difficulty.
“In Puerto Rico, he was fearless. He gives them an offensive swagger. I think his confidence kind of rubs off on his other guards,” said Major about Miller’s play in Puerto Rico.
“When you have a guy like Ian that at any time feels like he can just go and make a play, then the other guys start to feel like, you know what, when you always know you have a guy like that alongside you, it helps your risk-taking ability a little bit more.”
The 49ers are exactly one month away from entering conference play. On Jan. 9, the team travels to open Conference USA play at UTEP. Though the season has gotten off to a solid start for Major’s crew, there are a few areas that he’d like to see improve.
“If I had to narrow it down to maybe just two things, offensively continuing to be more efficient. That may sound a little stingy because we’re shooting 46 percent from the field, which is not a bad number, it’s a solid percentage,” said Major.
“I think we have an ability, as we look at film, to be that 47 and 48 percentage area, which is a very good field goal percentage as a basketball team, for any team. I like the fact that our three-point defense has dipped. Opponents have gone down below 30 percent, which is a good sign. Just continuing to rebound the ball a little bit better, especially the long ones. I think teams are starting to shoot more three’s against us.”
Despite the areas that need to see improvement as the 49ers gear up for conference play, Major has been impressed with the scoring balance of his young team.
“I think yesterday was four guys in double figures, if I’m not mistaking. There has been multiple games where thankfully, it hasn’t been just a one or two game occurrence,” said Major.
“If that trend stays, I think that will help us because you hope that it makes you harder to prepare for. I think we have some other guys that can make some plays, and that scoring balance thing has probably been the biggest surprise that’s been pleasant.”
The 49ers play at Florida State on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. and will look to improve their non-conference record.