Monday night was the debut of a new era in Charlotte basketball. With Mark Price at the helm for his first game, the 49ers defeated Methodist University 98-73 in Halton Arena. Niner Nation was out in full force to see how the Price era would begin. Without further ado, here are our takeaway’s from Charlotte’s lone exhibition game of the season:
Don’t blink, Charlotte is going to play fast
Mark Price decided to go small to start the game. The starting five was Jon Davis, Anthony Vanhook, Andrien White, Braxton Ogbueze and Benas Griciunas: four players under 6-foot-4 and one seven footer. The next tallest player stood at 6-foot-8. In turn, the offense was a blur. Multiple possessions would be a simple pass to a shooter for three or a drive and dish layup. Redshirt senior Bernard Sullivan led the way in points with 21 points, including two monster dunks. Freshman White added 15 points, impressing with his offensive creativity.
The bright lights of Halton Arena showed the 49ers’ nerves to open the game. After a couple of free throw trips, Charlotte found their rhythm. With the smaller lineup, ball movement was much quicker and deliberate. A clear example of this happened during the first half. Methodist switched to a 2-3 zone to keep Charlotte from penetrating. In a professional display, Charlotte orchestrated a possession that would end in a wide-open dunk by Sullivan.
Price, known for his shooting ability as a professional, decided to dial it from long range to open the second half. Charlotte made eight threes in the second half, doubling the three they made in the first half. Sophomore Ridell Camidge made three 3-pointers and freshman Curran Scott added two as well. Charlotte would end the game shooting 58 percent from behind the arc. It’s important to note that shooting haunted Charlotte in previous years. Quick and simple should make the Charlotte offense much more exciting.
“It’s all about taking what the defense gives you, but these guys know I have confidence in them to take the shot when they expect it to go in,” Price said of the offense.
Defense is creating chaos
With the small lineup in place, the defense swarmed to the ball. Charlotte forced 21 turnovers on the night, scoring 25 points off turnovers on the night. It seemed that there were two 49ers defending a Methodist ball-handler on the perimeter for much of the night.
But a cause for concern would be the interior defense. This is a consequence when playing with a smaller lineup. Many times Methodist would go into the post where a mismatch was sure to be found and scored on a hook shot. Along with trouble defending the post, Charlotte struggled with rebounding. The 49ers lost 38-32 in the rebound margin and gave up 17 second-chance points. Price and the coaching staff will need to address the front court before facing division one talent.
Bernard Sullivan made a statement
Sullivan looked like a man playing amongst boys. Coming off the bench, the redshirt senior from Gastonia led the way in scoring with 21 points and added two huge blocks. One thing is sure, Sullivan is strong. Charlotte made Sullivan the focal point on offense. Whether it was catching it on the block or at the elbow, Sullivan was able to create a shot for himself and either put it in the basket or get to the free throw line.
The most impressive stretch of the game occurred in the first half. With a Methodist player driving baseline, Sullivan was forced to help on defense. The Methodist player floated the ball up for a layup, but Sullivan blocked it against the backboard and Niner Nation went crazy. On the ongoing possession, Sullivan trailed the fast break and found himself an open area to spot up for three. Sullivan would sink it and beat his chest to the crowd. Then, as if Methodist didn’t learn their lesson the first time, another layup was blocked by Sullivan.
If there was a case to make a change in the starting lineup for Friday’s game against Elon, Sullivan would be the topic of discussion.
“It feels good to be back, but I’m not concerned with my stats and the big plays. What’s most important to me is winning and playing better as a team,” Sullivan said.
Charlotte will open the regular season Friday, November 13, welcoming Elon to Halton Arena. The game will be a double-header, with the women’s tipoff at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s at 8:30 p.m.