Charlotte faces off against MTSU, looks to shake off rust from UAB
The Charlotte 49ers will play against Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Niners are coming off a tough loss against UAB in a game that saw their 13-point lead evaporate in the final quarter. Now, they face one of the hottest teams in the league and are determined to finish them off.
Scouting the Blue Raiders
Middle Tennessee comes into Saturday’s game with a record of 15-8, including a 10-2 mark in Conference USA play. With Charlotte’s loss on Thursday, they have sole possession of first place. The Blue Raiders’ rigid non-conference slate has definitely prepared them for conference play. MTSU played Virginia, Louisville, Kentucky and Georgia Tech in the early part of the season, and they have certainly learned from those hardships on the way to dominating the league.
MTSU is led by forward Alex Johnson, the 2015-16 C-USA Freshman of the Year. The sophomore is averaging 20.7 points and 5.5 boards and is converting 53 percent of her field goals this season. She is flanked by senior guard Ty Petty, who is averaging 17.6 points, 5.2 dimes and 3.6 boards per contest. Petty is also the best three-point shooter for MTSU, as she has hit 56-142 (39 percent) three pointers this season.
Abbey Sissom is another threat, as she averages 9.0 points and has hit 46-122 (37 percent) from deep this year. Rebecca Reuter, Gabby Lyon and Jess Louro are the main contributors off the bench for MTSU. Reuter averages 6.4 points, Lyon 5.8, and Louro only averages 4.8 but is a capable shooting threat. Altogether, the team’s offense averages 68.3 points per contest and is +3.2 in the scoring margin. The team averages 15.4 assists per game to 15.8 turnovers, but they shoot the rock at a 43.8 percent clip.
Perhaps the most telling statistic is that the Blue Raiders average 10.6 offensive rebounds per game. That number figures to be the most important thing for Charlotte to watch out for. Though MTSU only grabs 33.4 boards per game to Charlotte’s 38.9, the 10.6 offensive boards account for almost a third of them. The Niners will need to keep Johnson from feasting on the glass, as she is probably one of the most physical bigs the team will face this season.
Keys for Charlotte
Charlotte will need to come out with firepower to begin the game; they can’t afford a slow start against this team. The most important things for them to do will be defending without fouling and keeping the Blue Raiders off the glass. Lyon and Johnson are the leading rebounders and can go off for double-doubles, but the Blue Raiders have six players that average more than 3.5 boards a game. Like Charlotte, their guards help out on the glass, so Grace Hunter and Lefty Webster will have to help out Nyilah Jamison-Myers on the block.
Defending without fouling is the other main key. UAB got to the free throw line at will in Charlotte’s last game down the stretch, so it will be important for the Niners to keep their opponent in front of them and have the help in the right place to discourage penetration. In addition, Charlotte has to be careful about crashing the offensive glass so as not to get cheap, loose-ball fouls in the backcourt.
Laia Raventos will need to have another strong game for Charlotte. The guard recorded 11 points and three dimes against the Blazers, which was helpful, given that Webster eventually fouled out. The team performs better when she is aggressive and looks to score in addition to her crisp passing. She runs the fast break to perfection and gives Charlotte another perimeter threat. If she, Webster and Gregory can hold down the perimeter, they will open up the floor for Hunter’s drives and Jamison-Myers’ post feeds.
The game against Middle Tennessee will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.