Lefty Webster finishing at the rim against the Falcons. Photo by Chris Crews
Lefty Webster finishing at the rim against the Falcons. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers return home Thursday night at 7 p.m., looking for a win against in-state rival, East Carolina. The Niners will look to go 2-0 against the Pirates; the men’s team already beat ECU 76-64 earlier this season in Halton Arena.

What to Expect

The Pirates come into Thursday’s game with a record of 6-2. Similar to the Niners, the Pirates are coming off a Thanksgiving tournament. ECU competed in the Savannah Invitational down in Georgia, beating Marist 70-68 and Ball State 82-69 in overtime. However, they lost their second game to nationally ranked West Virginia 79-47.

In addition to those three games, the Pirates played Presbyterian College on Monday night, defeating the Blue Hose 54-46. Presbyterian is the only opponent that both Charlotte and ECU have shared (Charlotte also defeated Presbyterian 71-63 on Nov. 20). As a result, the Pirates will have had two days of rest compared to Charlotte’s five days off. It will be imperative for Charlotte to drive aggressively to the basket and wear down on ECU to make them use their depth.

Statistically, the Pirates lean on their upperclassmen. They are led in scoring by grad student forward Kristen Gaffney, who averages 17.6 points and 6.4 rebounds, while also leading the team in field goal percentage (63 percent). Next in scoring is redshirt senior Bre McDonald, who averages 14.0 points and 6.8 boards per game. Other scoring threats are redshirt seniors Antoinett Bannister and Khadidja Toure, who average 8.8 and 8.7 points, respectively. Bannister is a three-point threat, converting 40.4 percent of her threes on the season.

As a unit, the Pirates average 71.2 points a game and 46 percent from the field. They also average 38.6 rebounds a game and 17.6 turnovers, while forcing their opponents into an average of 18.1 turnovers a game. Meanwhile, the Niners average 40 rebounds and 18.7 turnovers per game. Charlotte must hold onto the rock and also force turnovers themselves in order to get easy runouts and fastbreak scores.

Team Effort

Charlotte leans a lot on its guards for scoring. Sophomore Grace Hunter leads the team with 19.3 points and 6.0 boards a game, while seniors Lefty Webster and Ciara Gregory average 12.2 and 10.0 points per contest, respectively. Webster also averages 6.3 boards, while junior do-it-all-wing Amaya Ransom leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per contest. Considering that ECU has bigger post players with length, it will be everyone’s responsibility to rebound.

Laia Raventos pulling up for a jumper. Photo by Chris Crews
Laia Raventos pulling up for a jumper. Photo by Chris Crews

Charlotte’s posts will have their work cut out for them, but it will be an entertaining battle. Nyilah Jamison-Myers has been rebounding well as of late (averaged 8.0 rebounds in Hilton Concord Classic), and Dara Pearson gives coach Cara Consuegra another post option off the bench. Senior Kenya Olley will also provide a defensive presence; her 1.8 blocks a game average leads the team through its first six games.

Overall, expect this to be a low scoring game. Charlotte hasn’t been shooting the ball well as of late, but their defense has made up for it in their three wins. If the offense is fluid and continues to move the ball, the team’s field goal percentage will rise dramatically. As coach Consuegra has alluded to numerous times, defense and rebounding will be the key. ECU is taller than Charlotte, sporting numerous wing players who stand at six feet and come close to the height of their post players. But, if the Niners can rebound by committee and clog the lane, the Pirates will be frustrated and will leave Halton Arena with a loss.

The contest against ECU should be a good one, and the home fans should bring plenty of energy to this rivalry game. Tip is set for 7 p.m.

Zach Timmons, better known as ZT, is a junior at UNC Charlotte. He is an English major and is also minoring in journalism. In his free time, ZT enjoys writing spoken word poetry, drawing, and making beats.