Tadd Haislop

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That’s a Wrap

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Photo by Chris Crews

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

It has been four years since I first stepped foot on the campus of UNC Charlotte. In 2009, the uncertainty of my college destination was extinguished when I fell in love with the brick-crusted campus. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that my run is almost over. Four years are gone and I have no idea where they went.

I am satisfied to say that I have little to no regrets about how my time at Charlotte was spent. In four years I developed invaluable friendships that will likely last a lifetime; friendships that I have never and will never take for granted. For four years I went to class and did my work, but was careful to not obsess over academics in fear of overlooking the best four years of my life. I socialized, had fun and attended innumerable parties and bars, but successfully stayed out of trouble.

I lived the dorm life and the apartment life. I ate countless meals at Resident Dining Hall (RDH) that were mediocre at best. I spent four years dodging satanic geese and bothersome inchworms on my way to classes.

I took advantage of the brilliant minds of professors, advisors and peers, and planted volumes of precious knowledge in my mind. As much as I learned about communication studies and journalism, it is not even close to the amount that I learned about myself.

After all the good, bad and unforgettable things that happened to me in four years at UNC Charlotte, one specific personal transition stands out as the most important: I became a 49er.

Before the beauty of the bricks and the rolling landscape made my college decision easy, I had an unorthodox reason for even considering Charlotte in the first place. I wanted to attend the school because, get this, they did not have a football team.

Why would a sports nut that is strangely fixated on football want to go to a college that does not field a team on Saturdays? The truth is that I grew up with an obsession for Virginia Tech Hokies football. My uncle started taking me to games before I knew what a strong safety was. If it were not for out-of-state tuition I would probably be writing this column at a computer in Blacksburg, Va. When I realized that I could attend a college that didn’t present a football-related obligation on the weekends I figured hey, I can still go to Tech games!

I will be tied to Virginia Tech football for as long as I am tied to my family. Not much in this world makes me happier than tailgating and enjoying crisp, Autumn Saturday afternoons in Lane Stadium with my uncle and cousins. Despite my enthusiasm for VT football, the past four years have forced me into a realization. I am not a Hokie. I am a 49er.

I didn’t feel like a true 49er until my senior year when I became heavily involved with student media. Working with the athletics department and attending endless sporting events provided me with a newfound passion and respect. I felt a sense of pride as a 49er that I had not previously felt. I was overtaken by something that many students at UNC Charlotte unfortunately can’t seem to find; school spirit.

I am not going to predict that the addition of football will improve Charlotte’s fan base because I simply do not know. There are too many factors and possible outcomes to know exactly what effects Brad Lambert and the program as a whole will have on UNC Charlotte’s culture. How important is success on the field? Will a move to the bowl subdivision be good or bad? Who knows? I will say one thing, and that is that the addition certainly can’t hurt.

In a little over a year of writing and editing stories at the Niner Times, I have noticed fundamental issues that may be catalysts for Niner Nation’s lack of passion. Like I said I do not know what will happen in the future, but I do know what I want to happen. I know what I want to be changed.

I would like to go to surrounding restaurants and bars and see green-masked walls sprinkled with Charlotte 49ers memorabilia rather than Duke, Clemson, NC State and ECU flags. I want to see a student body that heckles peers who wear North Carolina or Appalachian State attire to class on game day.

I want a reason to pass up on November Saturdays in Blacksburg. I want to be able to experience the same passionate tailgating atmosphere in Charlotte: Beer pong, corn hole, grilling, football tossing, socializing, music; the whole shebang. I want the current football-induced eagerness to translate into long-lasting enthusiasm for the 49ers.

Perhaps the most of all I want to see an athletic department that does not accept mediocrity in any sport. This includes everybody from the top to the bottom; coaches, players and any other influential figures involved with the various athletic programs. I want to see the “winning is all that matters” attitude that has propelled previously inapt schools to a national relevance in the area of athletics. In other words, when I tell relatives in Ohio that I received my bachelors degree from UNC Charlotte, I do not want them to ask me what it’s like to be a Tar Heel. I want them to know who the 49ers are.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UNC Charlotte, and I consider my involvement with 49er sports towards the end of my tenure to be the cherry on top. After graduation, I fully intend on returning to campus for as many athletic events as my schedule allows.

I will always remember the time that Pierria Henry stole the basketball from a Massachusetts guard and finished with a dunk at the buzzer to seal a homecoming game victory. I’ll remember when the Charlotte men’s soccer team made a miraculous run to the national championship game. When I come back I want to relive the best four years of my life and recollect the evil geese, overpriced books and controversial public speakers at Belk Tower.

When I return in the future I will report as a passionate, true 49er. I just hope that I am not alone.

Who is Brad Lambert?

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Brad Lambert will make his head coaching debut when the 49ers take on the Campbell Camels at home on Aug. 31. Photo by Chris Crews

An office in the northern corner of the Judy Rose Football center overlooks a brand new football stadium with freshly placed artificial turf that has never seen game action. The blinds in the office window are open, allowing the entrance of a bright glare from the sun beaming off metal bench seats that have never been sat in. The walls of the office are empty and a faint smell of fresh white paint fills the air. A 48-year-old football man gazes out of the window. He is the first head football coach in UNC Charlotte history. His name is Brad Lambert.

A football man is a fellow who loves the sport and has throughout his life. He has always watched football, played football and studied football. He is committed to the game as if the two were in a romantic relationship. Brad Lambert is, and always has been, a football man.

It all started in 1983 on the campus of Kansas State University; home of the Wildcats. A former standout high school player and freshman defensive back on the football team, Lambert was not far from his home in Hoxie, Kan. Like any football man would, he loved to play the game. His skill and passion became apparent after his freshman season when he earned second-team all-Big Eight honors.

“My whole career I had always thought about playing,” Lambert said. “I never really thought about coaching. I was always on the playing side, I mean everything was focused on playing football.”

Lambert performed well for the Wildcats in the next three seasons, but was even better off the field. The defensive back was an all-Big Eight academic choice his sophomore year, junior year and senior year. He lettered in each of his four years on campus until his graduation in 1987. Despite success both on and off the field, it became apparent that Lambert would not become a professional football player. But a true football man would never leave his love. He would find a way to stay connected to the sport and excel in it. That is exactly what Brad Lambert did.

“Once my career was over at Kansas State I really didn’t want to leave the game. I really loved football and wanted to be around the guys. That’s when it kind of turned to the coaching side.”

Thanks to the advice of a position coach that had played at the University of Oklahoma, the football man turned his attention and graduate school plans to Norman, Ok.; home of the Sooners. Unsure if he had made the right decision, Lambert said “let’s go to Oklahoma and see if this is what I really want to do. Sure enough, I got into it, really fell into it. That’s how it all got started.”

Jim Donnan served as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator when the 22-year-old Lambert arrived on campus. The well-known and respected coach took a liking to Lambert, who had wedged his way into the football program as a graduate assistant. Soon after Lambert’s arrival in Norman, Donnan accepted the head coaching position at Marshall University in Huntington, W.V. Wanting a true football man by his side, Donnan brought Lambert with him and gave the graduate assistant his first official assistant coaching job.

After six successful seasons in Huntington, including an NCAA Division-1 Football Championship in 1992, Donnan was offered the head coaching position at the University of Georgia. Like he did before, Donnan made sure Lambert was right by his side in the move. The coaching duo was successful in the Southeastern conference as well, participating in bowl games in four of their five seasons with the Bulldogs. However, despite a 40-19 record in that time, Donnan was fired as head coach.

Lambert then turned to Head Coach Jim Grobe at Wake Forest University. “I had heard a lot of good things about the coach. Didn’t really know him, but I had a really close friend on his staff that helped me.” Lambert accepted a position as the linebackers coach for the Demon Deacons after the 2000 season. He was then promoted to defensive coordinator in 2007.

While at Wake Forest, Lambert heard rumors of a start-up football program in nearby Charlotte, N.C.

“I knew they were going to start football and had kind of seen the situation from 90 miles away in Winston. Because of the location of the school I really wanted to investigate. I really went into it wanting to see what the plan was and is. Do we really want football at UNC Charlotte or just say we want football? Sure enough, the plan was in place, just a fabulous plan that the staff had laid out. I got really excited about the opportunity.” After becoming very interested in the job, Lambert submitted an application to be reviewed. “Darin called, Judy called and one thing lead to another. We had a meeting and then I met with the chancellor. When they offered me the job we decided to go ahead and take it.”

Judy Rose, the director of athletics at UNC Charlotte, immediately noticed that Brad Lambert was, in fact, a football man. “I read his letter of application and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, who is this guy?” Rose said of the Wake Forest defensive coordinator. “It was not your cookie cutter letter. No, it talked about growing up on a farm in Kansas, work ethic and what he would do as coach. So I started making phone calls. We had our list of what we were looking for and ‘wow factor’ was on there, a wow factor in what he’s accomplished.”

Less than three weeks later, Rose introduced Lambert as the first ever head football coach at UNC Charlotte.

The football man could not possibly be more excited about his opportunity with the 49ers. Not only is the gig his first as a head coach, but he is a head coaching pioneer at Charlotte.

“As you move up as a position coach you have your 12 guys that you deal with, Lambert explained. “Then, when you become defensive coordinator, you deal with and influence about half of the team. Now, as the head coach, you have a chance to influence all the guys on the team, set the pace on the way we’re going to practice and the way it’s going to be in the office. That’s been a lot of fun, but this is a unique situation as a start-up. You get to be involved in the construction of a stadium and the complete hiring of all your staff. I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

Lambert realizes that he has complete control over the Charlotte 49ers football program. He has been able to pick his players and establish traditions, such as how the team practices and how they run on the field. However, he also recognizes the downsides of having to build a program from the ground up.

“We have a lot of freshmen. They make a lot of freshman mistakes on and off the field. Just being a freshman in college is a new experience for everybody. We had 60-some freshmen that came to us last August and, in a normal situation, you would only have about 20.”

Lambert has been equipped with beautiful facilities. UNC Charlotte and the athletics department have given him all the tools he could possibly need to run a football program. Despite all of the exciting aspects of controlling a new program, he is mostly excited about the students. He wants and needs the student body. “One of the reasons I got involved is Saturdays on a college campus, that’s a fun time for the student. We want to create an environment where [students] want to come watch us play. I’m excited to see them.”

The rookie head coach has worked hard to spread the word about Charlotte’s new football team. As far as football programs are concerned, he has seen the best of the best and wants to get Charlotte to that point. Over the last two years Lambert has attended over 200 events in order to promote football at UNC Charlotte. He often shows off pictures of and encourages alumni to return to the beautiful campus he now calls home. He wants to “field a team that plays well and the right way so that when people leave the stadium, they’re like, I want to go watch that crew play again. They play hard.”

Lambert will make his head coaching debut when the Charlotte 49ers take on the Campbell Camels on Aug. 31. After a lifetime of loving the sport of football, he will finally take the reigns and lead his team with complete control. He is no longer a player or a graduate assistant. He is not an assistant coach or a defensive coordinator. He is a head coach.

With only a few months remaining before the showdown against Campbell, Lambert can stare out of the window in his office through the open blinds and picture what the scene will look like. He can picture the team entrance and other traditions he has been able to establish. He can picture thousands of fans wearing green in place of the bright glare from the empty bench seats in the stadium. This fall, Brad Lambert’s dream as a football man will become reality.

 

 

 

Cheaters never prosper?

Recent allegations against the University of Auburn football program have sucked the sports world back into the NCAA violations debate like an uncontainable whirlpool. It is a never-ending struggle between the league and the various athletic programs.

When news broke of Auburn’s alleged grade-changing scheme to maintain players’ eligibility, the public seemed outraged. When I heard, I was not surprised at all. But should I be?

I hope I’m not, and I don’t think that I’m completely alone in my cavalier approach to this issue. It seems that violations in college athletics have become so common that they have become a sort of game in themselves. Everybody is playing. If you get caught, you lose.

I don’t want to come off too cynical, because I understand that there are programs out there that operate the right way; with integrity and humility. But come on, let’s be real here. There have been entirely too many cases of athletic programs being busted by the NCAA to suggest that this is just some fad. That only a handful of programs have committed some sort of violation in the last 25 years. Really?

In any given Bowl Championship Series (BCS) conference, you can probably pick out five or six schools that have at some point in time been disciplined by the NCAA for committing a violation; be it recruiting, eligibility, paying players, you name it. I have no proof, but I would argue that the number is only five to six because those are the unlucky programs who have been caught. They lost.

The Auburn allegations suggested grade alteration during, before and after the 2010 season; their national championship year. How ironic. Auburn’s national title was sandwiched by a pair of championships won by their in-state rival, the Alabama Crimson Tide. I believe Nick Saban is already one of the greatest college football coaches of all time and I have an undeniable respect for the Alabama head coach. But is it farfetched for me to be suspicious after Saban and his Crimson Tide won three national titles in four years? The truth is I don’t want to suspect anything. I want to believe that Alabama is clean. But due to the constant flood of violations and the fact that Saban keeps fielding the best players in the country each year, I can’t help it. I wonder.

Maybe the nature of the beast has trained our brains to the point of subconscious skepticism. The steroid issue in sports is remarkably comparable in this sense. A player is big and strong so he must be on steroids, right? A team is winning and their star quarterback is driving a Maserati so they must be cheating, right?

By no means am I suggesting that “it’s okay to cheat if everybody else is doing it too.” First of all there is no proof that everybody is doing it. Second of all, cheating is never okay and it never will be. Perhaps the problem isn’t how often programs commit violations, but why they occur so often.

The NCAA is constantly pounded with criticism regarding how they operate, and some of the flack is warranted. For example, the league for years has refused to pay athletes despite the billions of dollars generated by college athletics. The pay-for-play debate is another animal, but it is a part of the big picture here. In college sports, rules are made to be broken. Programs can and do find ways to financially compensate players. The NCAA is a strong fist and athletic programs around the country are a glob of grape jelly. The tighter the fist squeezes around the jelly, the more the jelly oozes out and escapes the clinch of the fist.

Although rules and regulations are absolutely essential, they might be a little bit too harsh in this case. Maybe athletic programs commit violations because they feel that the NCAA does not provide enough leeway for them to moralistically gain competitive edges over other schools. There is certainly no excuse for altering grades to maintain a player’s eligibility. But would it hurt the NCAA to provide a player with adequate travel expenses for his or her family that can’t afford to watch their child play in a title game?

The ugly truth is that there will always be rules and they will always be broken. We shouldn’t be surprised when a national powerhouse of an athletic program gets hammered by the NCAA because they did something wrong. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we also shouldn’t be accepting.

We need to be careful to not let the subconscious skepticism of cheating turn into subconscious acceptance of cheating.

As for the NCAA, lighten up a bit. Maybe if the regulations of recruiting and eligibility were not so strict, programs would be less inclined to break the rules. There must be a way to keep a grasp on that grape jelly without it slipping away through the cracks.

Winningest senior class calls it a career

Charlotte's senior class featured 87 total wins and earned four postseason berths. Photo by Chris Crews
Charlotte’s senior class featured 87 total wins and earned four postseason berths. Photo by Chris Crews

On November 13, 2009, the Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team lost to the East Carolina Pirates by 23 points in their season opener.

Despite losing, Charlotte was strongly encouraged by one player after the ECU game. A freshman forward by the name of Jennifer Hailey, playing in her first game at the collegiate level, scored 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds to lead the team in each category.

Hailey, Amanda Dowe and Jai Forney were three freshmen on a team that finished 18-4 and only lost two games at home in Halton Arena.

Four years, 130 games and four postseason berths later, Hailey, Dowe and Forney finished their careers with 87 total wins; the winningest senior class in Charlotte women’s basketball history.

A 72-60 victory over the Davidson Wildcats in the second round of the 2013 Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) gave the class one more win than the class of 2011.

In a four year span, Hailey and Forney tied Shannon MaCallum’s school record of 130 games played.

This year’s class has also contributed to a streak of 11 straight postseason births. The streak is a feat that only 12 of the 345 NCAA Division-1 women’s basektball programs have achieved.

In a school record 130 games played, Jai Forney averaged 6.1 points per game. She took exactly 800 shots and made 325 of them for an impressive career shooting percentage that ended up to be just over 40 percent.

The guard from Charlotte, N.C. recorded 281 assists and 126 steals as a 49er.

“Playing for Charlotte and being from Charlotte is an amazing thing. Just going out and having Charlotte on your jersey. Playing in front of amazing fans and having everyone there to support you,” said Forney.

One of the highlights of Forney’s career came on her senior night, a late-season conference game against Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She beat the halftime buzzer with a 40-foot heave. The ball rattled in and capped a 15-1 Charlotte run to end the half.

Her career highlight was also a national highlight, as the play was ranked No.4 on ESPN Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays of the day.

Amanda Dowe will leave Charlotte as one of the best forwards to ever put on a green and white 49ers uniform. Her 23 career double-doubles are the sixth-most in program history. She is one of only 35 players in women’s college basketball that averaged a double-double this season.

Dowe’s 916 career rebounds are the fifth-most in school history. She averaged 7.5 boards a game.

The forward from Tabor City, N.C. scored 767 points and averaged 6.3 points per game for her career. She made an impressive 47 percent of her 628 career field goal attempts.

Dowe exploded in her senior season and averaged over 10 points a game. She scored a career-high 21 points in an early-season victory over the TCU Horned Frogs.

As for Jennifer Hailey, the career-opening, Conference Rookie of the Week earning, 17-point/seven-rebound performance was only the beginning of a legendary career.

After a school-record 130 games played, the forward from Marshville, N.C. will be remembered as one of the greatest players in program history.

Hailey blocked more shots (231) than any player in Charlotte history. In the final 44 games of her career, Hailey recored at least one block. The rejection streak ended when her team lost to Florida in the Sweet Sixteen of the WNIT.

Hailey will also go down as one of the greatest rebounders that the program has ever seen. Her 1,089 career boards are the fourth-most in school history.

Number 30 was a force on the offensive end of the floor as well. Her 1,453 points rank her ninth on Charlotte’s all-time list. She is only the 20th player in program history to hit the 1,000-point mark in a career.

Being an impressive scorer and rebounder, Hailey was nothing short of a double-double machine. In her career, Hailey recorded an absurd 42 double-doubles. Only three players in program history have more in a career. She, along with Dowe, was one of 35 players in women’s basketball to average a double-double during her senior season.

Her 1,453 points and 1,089 rebounds made Hailey the fourth Charlotte women’s basketball player to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

During her senior campaign Hailey earned A-10 Player of the Week honors four times, including a conference record three consecutive weeks.

Her brilliant 2012-13 season earned the senior A-10 Player of the Year honors. Hailey is only the second player in Charlotte history to be named conference player of the year, and the first to do it in the A-10. 49er great Kristin Wilson received the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year award for the 1986-87 season.

“It was great to play for Charlotte,” Hailey said after her team’s WNIT elimination. “I liked the environment. I liked Niner Nation, they bring a lot to us. They keep us going. I just want to thank everyone here at Charlotte.”

Hailey, Dowe and Forney not only make up the most successful senior class in Charlotte women’s basketball history, but for two years they were a part of the 2011 class who holds second place in the wins column. The three players will be missed, but because of their accomplishments, never forgotten.

The fans who watched will never forget, the program will never forget and Head Coach Cara Consuegra will certainly never forget what the trio did for women’s basketball at Charlotte.

After the Florida loss, an emotional Consuegra noted that “Jai, Jenn, Amanda were incredible leaders.”

“They were what you want out of seniors. They were perfect but they battled to be better. They believed in my vision, my staff and me. Every day they went out to accomplish that and you could see it building our team. We were not perfect in November or December. We dropped games we did not think we should drop. You could see it build as we went in to conference play. We really took off, that was a full year of work it did not happen over a couple of months. It started with a commitment we made in April. It changed this program in many ways.”

Saint Louis takes A-10 title, earns 4-seed in NCAA tournament

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Saint Louis forward Rob Loe helps cut down the nets at the Barclays Center after the Billikens defeated the VCU Rams in the A-10 Championship game, 62-56. Photo by Nathan Butler

NEW YORK – Just a few months after the passing of Head Coach Rick Majerus, the Saint Louis Billikens held on long enough to defeat the scrappy Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams, 62-56, to win the 2013 Atlantic-10 (A-10) Tournament Championship on Sunday afternoon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In a match-up between the tournament’s top two seeded teams, the Billikens took advantage of an uncharacteristically lethargic start from the Rams. VCU scored the first bucket of the game, but 2-0 would prove to be their only lead all day.

After a 10-0 Saint Louis run, VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart called a timeout to let his team settle down. At that point they were 1-8 from the field and had already committed six turnovers.

The Rams then began to display the “havoc” style of defense they’re known for and forced the Billikens into eight first half turnovers, getting themselves back in the game.

Despite only making eight of their 27 field goal attempts in the first half, VCU trailed Saint Louis by eight at halftime.

The second half began just as the first did, with Saint Louis coming out hot. The Billikens had built up an 11-point lead before VCU’s Treveon Graham nailed a much-needed three-point basket to swing the momentum back in the Rams’ favor.

VCU went on a 10-3 run and pulled within one point before Saint Louis senior forward Cody Ellis drained a three, killing VCU’s run and eventually, their chances of winning the game.

“We weren’t worried they were only a point behind,” Ellis said. “The boys did a great job of keeping their composure. It was unreal.”

The Billikens extended their lead back to six and were able to make free throws down the stretch to ward off the Rams and seal the victory.

“Rick’s footprint and fingerprints, his lessons, are embedded into those guys,” Saint Lewis Interim Head Coach Jim Crews said. “His wisdom is embedded into those guys, which is pretty cool.”

After earning the regular season A-10 title and earning the number-one seed, Saint Louis’s A-10 Tournament championship earns them an automatic spot in the NCAA Championship Tournament.

VCU’s “havoc” defense was effective on Sunday despite the loss. Saint Louis was forced into 18 turnovers which the Rams turned into 21 points.

“Our whole style of play is to get the other team rattled, and I think for a stretch there we had it going the way we wanted,” Smart said. “They were having trouble even getting the ball inbounds. But then they’ve got some older guys that stepped up, that made big shots.”

The A-10 Championship game was the first time this season that VCU has lost a game when forcing 15 or more turnovers. What killed the Rams was shooting; they simply could not put the ball through the net.

VCU shot 33.9 percent from the field and only managed to make three of their 18 attempted three-pointers (16.7 percent).

Saint Louis shot 45 percent from the field and scored much more efficiently than their opponent. The Rams put up 56 shots while the Billikens only took 40.

Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans scored 16 points and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds in the title game. The junior took home the A-10 Tournament MVP award after averaging 21.6 points and 9.3 rebounds in Brooklyn.

Billikens guard Kwamain Mitchell seemingly could not miss against VCU. Mitchell scored a team-high 19 points on 7-9 shooting including three daggers from behind the arc.

“Losing one of the best coaches in NCAA basketball, all those things brought us together,” Mitchell said. “All those hard times, it paid off right now. I’m just excited guys stuck with it.”

VCU forward Treveon Graham recorded the game’s only double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Juvonte Reddic contributed 15 points and eight rebound of his own.

After the game on Sunday evening, Saint Louis earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament where they will face New Mexico State in the first round. VCU, a No. 5 seed in the big dance, will have an opening round match-up against Akron.

Charlotte digs early hole, falls to Saint Louis in A-10 quarterfinals

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Pierria Henry scored seven points before leaving the game with an injury after he took an elbow to the throat in Charlotte’s A-10 quarterfinals loss to the Saint Louis Billikens. Photo by Nathan Butler

NEW YORK – The Charlotte 49ers struggled early and found themselves at an insurmountable deficit as they fell to the Saint Louis Billikens, 72-55, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 (A-10) Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Coming off an emotional, bizarre win in the tournament’s opening round against Richmond on Thursday, the 49ers came out sloppy against the Billikens, the number-one seeded team and regular season A-10 champion.

Saint Louis focused on stopping Charlotte’s low-post offense with early double teams and help defense. That effort resulted in several early turnovers, forcing Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major to call an early timeout with his team trailing 17-8.

Soon after the timeout, Charlotte forward Chris Braswell made a three-point basket to cut the Saint Louis lead to three. However, that margin would prove to be the closest for the remainder of the contest. The Billikens drained a three-pointer on each of their next three possessions to retain their lead, one they never relinquished throughout the game.

Major switched to a 3-2 zone in order to irritate the Saint Louis three-point shooters that seemingly could not miss. The strategy worked as the Billikens’ percentage dropped to 31.1 percent in the first half, but the damage had already been done on the other side of the ball.

At the end of the first half Charlotte had already committed 13 turnovers and Saint Louis had turned them into 16 points.

“We weren’t quite ourselves today,” Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major said of his team’s sloppy play. “I thought the best thing Saint Louis did today was disrupt us a little bit. Especially early in the game, we didn’t take care of the basketball. Got to give those guys credit.”

“I thought our defense generated a lot of good things for us from an offensive standpoint,” Saint Louis Head Coach Jim Crews said. “The zone gave us some problems for a while but then we got in a little bit of a rhythm.”

Defensively, Charlotte stayed with the 3-2 zone in the second half. The scheme worked well in the final 20 minutes as Saint Louis missed all of their seven three-point attempts and only managed to shoot 30.4 percent from the field.

No matter what Charlotte did offensively to get themselves back in the game, Saint Louis had an answer. With 12:44 left to play, Braswell hit another three to cut the lead to seven. Again, the Billikens answered with a demoralizing 9-0 run.

By the end of the game Saint Louis had scored 21 points off 20 Charlotte turnovers.

“They were just speeding us up. We were rushing, trying to make home-run passes,” Braswell explained.

After dominating Richmond in the low-post, the 49ers were outscored 28-24 in the paint by the Billikens. Charlotte did hold a slight advantage in rebounding (39-34).

Free throw shooting certainly did not help Charlotte down the stretch. The 49ers only made 54.5 percent of their free throws (12-of-22) while the Billikens shot 80.6 percent (25-of-31) from the charity stripe.

Braswell finished the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds (led Charlotte in both) for his second double-double of the season. The senior went 2-3 from behind the arc and made six of his eight free throws on Friday.

Willie Clayton put in eight points before fouling out with just over five minutes left to play. Pierria Henry scored seven a day after a career game against Richmond.

Henry left the game late in the second half after receiving an apparent elbow to the throat while defending near mid-court. The sophomore was immediately taken to a local medical center for further evaluation after experiencing breathing difficulties.

There is no word on the status of Henry at this point, but the entire Charlotte team promptly left the Barclays center after the loss to be with their teammate.

Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans could score-at-will against Charlotte on Friday. The junior scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He also made all of his nine free throw attempts.

Evans also led his team in rebounding with nine boards, one shy of a double-double.

Despite only sinking three of his 13 field goal attempts, Cody Ellis contributed 13 points including six from the free throw line.

Saint Louis will advance to the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament where they will await the winner of the LaSalle-Butler game.

Charlotte will know their post-season destiny after all conference tournaments are completed this weekend. According to Director of Athletics, Judy Rose, the 49ers would accept a bid for the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) but not for the CBI or CIT.

“Honestly, my focus has been Richmond first and obviously Saint Louis today. I really have no clue, hopefully we get a chance to keep playing, that’s all I want,” Major added.

 

Charlotte wins thriller over Richmond, advances to quarterfinals of A-10 tournament

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The Charlotte 49ers’ bench anxiously linked arms as Pierria Henry made eight free throws in the final four seconds to seal a 68-63 victory over the Richmond Spiders in the first round of the A-10 Tournament. Photo by Nathan Butler

NEW YORK  – The Charlotte 49ers submitted their share of March Madness and defeated the Richmond Spiders, 68-63, in bizarre fashion to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Atlantic 10 (A-10) Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Trailing by three points with just over four seconds to play, Pierria Henry made the first of two free throws to cut the Richmond lead to two. After the ball went in, Richmond’s Derrick Williams was called for a dead ball technical foul after shoving Willie Clayton to the ground on the baseline.

“I didn’t see what happened,” Henry said of the play. “I was just trying to focus on my free throw, made it, and then I saw Willie go flying. I let the refs handle the rest.”

The technical gave Charlotte two more free throws on top of the one remaining. Henry made all four to give the 49ers a one-point lead.

It was only the beginning of Richmond’s meltdown.

With Charlotte retaining possession after the technical, Henry was fouled at mid-court but fired the ball towards the hoop, earning him a three-shot shooting foul with just under three seconds remaining.

Disgusted by the call, Richmond Head Coach Chris Mooney lost his composure. By extensively complaining to the officials, Mooney was ejected and Richmond received two team technical fouls which gave Charlotte four more free throws.

“It’s a pretty devastating loss,” Mooney said after the game. “I feel bad for our players and our fans, I thought we put ourselves in a chance to win the game. Obviously I wish the ending hadn’t been the way it was, but I wish Charlotte luck in the next round.”

Henry made eight of his 11 free throws in the final four seconds to give Charlotte a five-point victory.

“This is one of the hardest fought wins I’ve ever been a part of,” Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major said. “You couldn’t make that up if you wanted to make a movie. We just talk to our guys about always making sure they keep their poise. Right or wrong, that’s not our place.”

The game began with the Spiders coming out on fire and jumping out to an early 8-2 advantage. Major was forced to call an early timeout to let his team regroup. “I didn’t think they would miss a shot all night the way they started,” he said after the game. “I’m just really proud of the way this team bounced back.”

The 49ers went into halftime down by eight points and had committed seven turnovers.

The second half was a different story for both teams. Charlotte cut down on turnovers and began to win the battle in the low-post. Richmond got cold and only managed to make 27.8 percent of their field goal attempts in the last 20 minutes.

Once Charlotte extinguished Richmond’s lead early in the second half, the game was a hard-fought, scrappy, nail-biter the rest of the way. There were seven ties and five lead changes in the second half alone.

Staying true to the formula that has shown them success all season, the 49ers completely dominated the front court.

Charlotte out-rebounded Richmond, 43-22, and out-scored them in the paint (44-16). The 49ers recorded more offensive rebounds (19) than the Spiders did defensive (14). Charlotte’s efforts on the offensive glass earned them a 21-3 advantage in second chance points.

Richmond, a characteristically good shooting team, only managed to sink 37.8 percent of their attempts. The Spiders only made a third of their three-point attempts (7-21). Charlotte failed to connect on a three-pointer but only attempted five.

Henry put in a brilliant performance in Thursday’s game. The sophomore scored a career-high 28 points including the eight free throws at the end of the game to lock up the victory. Henry added a career-high 12 rebounds to complete his third consecutive double-double and fourth on the season.

Clayton also recorded a career-high in points with 18. Chris Braswell didn’t score and failed to record a rebound in the first half, but the senior came alive in the second, scored 12 points and pulled down five rebounds (all offensive).

“My teammates talked to me and my coaches talked to me about staying in the game,” Braswell said. “I’m really proud of the way this team played today.”

Richmond guard Darien Brothers scored a career-high 43 points against the 49ers when the two teams last met in January. This time around, troubled by an injured hand and an aggressive Charlotte defensive scheme, the senior only scored 10 points and shot 2-9 from the field.

Cedrick Lindsay led the way for the Spiders in scoring with 19, including 7-7 from the charity stripe. Freshman Terry Allen came off the bench, contributed 14 points and led the Spiders in rebounding with 9 boards.

Williams was perfect from the field (3-3) and scored 13 points for Richmond, but the junior’s performance will be overshadowed by his technical foul on Clayton in the final seconds.

The Richmond Spiders will await their post-season destination which will be announced later in the week.

Charlotte will advance to the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals where the top-seeded Saint Louis Billikins await. Saint Louis defeated Charlotte, 76-58, in their only regular season match-up last month. Tip-off is scheduled for noon on Friday at the Barclays Center.

Charlotte collapses in second half, falls to Dayton, 88-67

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Darion Clark scored a season-high 17 points in Charlotte’s loss to Dayton on Wednesday night. Photo by Chris Crews

The Dayton Flyers (15-12, 5-8), with help from five double-digit scorers, earned their first Atlantic 10 (A-10) Conference road win of the season and defeated the Charlotte 49ers (18-9, 6-7) on Wednesday night in Halton Arena, 88-67.

In a tale of two halves, the 49ers came out hot at the beginning of the game and had built up an eight point lead before The Flyers quickly stormed back.

The game was closely contested for the remainder of the half, including five ties and five lead changes.

Both teams went into the locker room shooting over 50 percent and the 49ers held a five-point advantage.

In the second half, Charlotte went cold while Dayton got hotter.

Just over six minutes into the half, the Flyers had outscored the 49ers, 21-11. Once Dayton took the lead, they never looked back. The visitors would end up out-scoring Charlotte 59-33 in the final 20 minutes of play.

“Good win for us,” Dayton Head Coach Archie Miller said. “We’ve really had some struggles, to say the least, finishing games. We’ve learned a lot of hard lessons. Just a good team win, this time of year that’s really hard.”

For the game, Dayton made 61.7 percent of their field goal attempts (29-47) against a Charlotte team that holds opponents to just 40 percent shooting on average.

Charlotte shot 43.1 percent from the field, just below their season average. The 49ers also struggled from behind the arc (22.2 percent) compared to the Flyers, who shot 40 percent from three-point range.

Dayton not only shot better, but won the battle in the paint at well. The Flyers out-rebounded the 49ers 31-27 and had a 40-30 advantage in points in the paint.

Charlotte was able to capitalize on 10 offensive rebounds and racked up 17 second chance points.

“They set a tone in terms of execution and got the shots they were comfortable with. A lot of credit to those guys, they were very hungry,” said Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major. “I felt like we didn’t come out and set the same defensive tone as we did in the first half.”

Josh Benson, Dyshawn Pierre, Kevin Dillard, Vee Sanford and Devin Oliver all scored in double figures for the Flyers.

Oliver led the way for Dayton with 16 points on six of nine shooting. The junior also pulled down 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.

Darion Clark, Chris Braswell and Terrance Williams were the only three 49ers to score in double figures.

Clark led Charlotte with a season-high 17 points. The freshman also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

Williams scored 15 points on five of eight shooting and grabbed six rebounds of his own. Braswell finished with 10 points.

After two straight road games, the Dayton Flyers will return home to face Richmond on Saturday.

Charlotte will hit the road again for a Saturday night A-10 game at St. Bonaventure. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“We just need to push forward, we’ve been through this the past two years and we just need to fight and get back to what we do best,” Braswell said.

Women’s basketball outlasts Butler, 59-49

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Jennifer Hailey became Charlotte’s all-time leader in blocked shots against Butler on Wednesday night. The senior forward also pulled down career rebound number 1,000 against the Bulldogs. Photo by Chris Crews, photo@nineronline.com

The Charlotte 49ers (19-4, 8-1) pulled away from the Butler Bulldogs (14-10, 5-4) late in the game to earn a 59-49 win on Wednesday night in Halton Arena.

It was the first time the two teams had ever faced each other in women’s basketball after Butler joined the Atlantic 10 (A-10) last may. The Bulldogs are now 2-5 against first-time A-10 opponents this season.

Charlotte forward Jennifer Hailey came into the game needing just one blocked shot to become the school’s all-time leading shot blocker. The moment came not even three minutes into the game.

“Tremendous effort. Tremendous accomplishment. She’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever coached and probably one of the greatest people I’ve ever coached. I’m really happy for her,” Charlotte Head Coach Cara Consuegra said of her senior.

Hailey also grabbed career rebound number 1,000 late in the game, a mark that only two other women’s basketball players have accomplished at Charlotte.

Charlotte started the game a little sloppy, and seven of Butler’s first 11 points came off turnovers. One tie and four lead changes later, the 49ers went into the locker room down by four.

The 49ers were a little lethargic at the beginning of the second half as well. With just over 13 minutes to play and down by seven points, Consuegra called a timeout to let her team regroup.

That timeout turned out to be the turning point in the game, as the 49ers outscored the Bulldogs 33-13 from that point on.

“I can’t really take credit for it,” Consuegra said. “I think they got to that point where they said enough is enough, we don’t want to lose. You have to give them credit for changing the engery themselves. That shows maturity in our team and in our leaders.”

Hailey led all Charlotte players in scoring with 16 points. She pulled down 12 total rebounds to record her ninth straight double-double.

Charlotte forward Amanda Dowe also recorded a double-double, her tenth of the season, with 13 points and 14 total rebounds.

12 of Dowe’s 14 rebounds came on the offensive side of the ball.

49ers guard Ny Hammonds was the third and final double-digit scorer for Charlotte with 15 points including 7-8 free throw shooting. Hammonds also dished out a team-high seven assists.

Bulldogs guard Taylor Schippers highlighted the stat sheet for Butler with 17 points on seven of nine shooting. Both of Schippers’s missed field goals came from behind the arc at the end of the game when the Bulldogs were attempting to stage a late-game rally.

Butler forward Daress McClung nearly recorded a double-double with eight points and 10 total rebounds. McClung also led the Bulldogs with four assists.

Turnovers hurt the 49ers early, but killed the Bulldogs late. When it was all said and done, Butler had committed 22 turnovers that resulted in 17 Charlotte points.

With 26 offensive rebounds, Charlotte was able to out-score Butler in second chance points, 23-6.

Free throw shooting was another reason the 49ers were able to run away from the Bulldogs late on Wednesday. After shooting only 50 percent in the first half, Charlotte made 12 of their 15 free throw attempts (80 percent) in the final 20 minutes.

“Give Butler some credit, they came here ready to play off of a really bad loss. They played really hard and quite honestly, out-played us in the first 30 minutes,” Consuegra added.

“Not the prettiest win for us but one that we just battled through and found a way to win, and that’s the sign of a really good team.”

Butler will return home to Indianapolis to face St. Bonaventure on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Charlotte will stay at home for another A-10 conference match-up against George Washington. Tip-off against the Colonials is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday.

 

 

Charlotte struggles at free throw line, falls to VCU, 61-68

Charlotte 49ers' Willie Clayton finished Saturday night's game against VCU with 12 points, four rebounds. Photo by Chris Crews, photo@nineronline.com
Charlotte 49ers’ Willie Clayton finished Saturday night’s game against VCU with 12 points, four rebounds. Photo by Chris Crews, photo@nineronline.com

The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams (19-5, 7-2), using an aggressive defensive scheme and efforts from three double-digit scorers, defeated the Charlotte 49ers (17-6, 5-4) on Saturday night in Halton Arena, 68-61.

VCU entered the game as the the number one team in the nation in the categories of steals (279), steals per game (12.1) and turnovers forced per game (20.4).

Charlotte entered the contest averaging just over 15 turnovers a game. The combination of those numbers proved to be lethal for the 49ers, as they were forced into 17 turnovers which led to 23 of VCU’s 68 total points.

“This was as physical of a basketball as we’ve played in a while,” said VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart. “We knew it was going to be that way and we told our guys all week long.”

A packed Halton Arena watched VCU jump out to an early lead in the first half, and the Rams led by 11 points not even seven minutes into the game. The 49ers were able to quickly battle back with an 18-7 run, tying the game with just over four minutes left in the half.

Charlotte went into the locker room at halftime only trailing by six points, but had already committed 10 turnovers.

The second half opened just as the first half did, with the 49ers having trouble controlling the ball and the Rams building an 11-point lead. However, Charlotte was not able to completely reel in VCU during the final 20 minutes.

The Rams had built up a 14-point lead with five minutes left to play, and are now 18-0 when leading at that point in the game.

“They kept us at bay and made some timely jumpers,” Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major said. “That’s the mark of a good team, they found ways to respond when we made our runs at them. We weren’t quite ourselves for the full 40 minutes.”

VCU guard Rob Brandenburg led all scorers with 21 points on seven of 12 shooting. The junior was perfect from the free throw line (4-4) and made three of his five three-point field goal attempts.

Forward Juvonte Reddic, who was named Atlantic 10 (A-10) Co-Player of the Week after posting back to back double-doubles in two games last week, scored 14 points for the Rams on six of nine shooting.

Treveon Graham was the third VCU double-digit scorer with 12 points, half of which came from behind the arc.

Guard Terrance Williams led all 49ers in scoring with 13 points, sinking five of his six field goal attempts (83.3 percent). Willie Clayton also scored in double-digits with 12 points and shot 85.7 percent from the field.

Pierria Henry struggled offensively, only making three of his 12 field goal attempts, but pulled down 11 rebounds which ties his career high.

Charlotte did have an advantage in the post. The 49ers out-rebounded the Rams 36-18 and scored 42 points in the paint compared to VCU’s 28.

“They did a great job on the glass. It’s pretty amazing that we won when we were out-rebounded by [18] and I think that’s a testament to how we defended,” Smart added.

VCU’s aggressive style of defense led to 22 personal fouls and 22 49er free throw attempts. However, Charlotte was unable to capitalize and only shot 54.5 percent from the charity stripe.

The Rams made seven of their eight free throw attempts (87.5 percent).

VCU will return home to Richmond for another conference game against UMass on Thursday.

Following two consecutive losses, Charlotte will travel to Indianapolis, Ind. and try to bounce back against the Butler Bulldogs on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Women’s basketball shuts down Temple, 66-43

The Charlotte 49ers (17-4, 6-1) used stifling defense and contributions from four double-digit scorers to defeat the Temple Owls (10-12, 3-4), 66-43, on Wednesday night in Halton Arena.

After earning two straight Atlantic 10 (A-10) Player of the Week honors, Jennifer Hailey was the key focus point for the Owls’ defense. Temple consistently double-teamed Hailey throughout the game, forcing the 49ers to rely on other scorers.

Amanda Dowe, Ny Hammonds and Kira Gordon answered the call, all scoring in double figures.

“I thought that was the most tremendous defensive effort that we’ve had,” said Charlotte Head Coach Cara Consuegra. “We executed the scout defense almost perfectly. It was hard for them to score on us out of what they were doing. They scored on us on our own boards that we gave up which is probably the one area that I was displeased with, I didn’t think we did a great job rebounding. And then we put them on the free throw line with fouls.”

“The good thing is that those are things that we can control,” Consuegra added.

Temple never led once in the game, largely due to Charlotte’s effort on the defensive side of the ball. The 49ers held the Owls to a 28.8 field goal percentage. Temple’s worst shooting percentage of the season came against VCU last month when the Owls only made 28.6 percent of their shots.

With 9:26 remaining in the game, Rateska Brown of Temple hit a free throw. It would end up being the last point of the night for the Owls.

Temple shot just over 20 percent in the second half and did not make a field goal after the 12:21 mark.

Hammonds scored a game-high 16 points on seven of 13 shooting. It is the juniors highest point total since scoring 21 at UNCW in December.

Despite dealing with foul trouble for almost all of the second half, Hailey still managed to record her seventh straight double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Hailey was challenged on Wednesday night by Temple forward Victoria Macaulay. Macaulay played tight, physical defense, not letting the Charlotte star get the positioning she wanted in the post. However, the Temple senior fouled out with 5:40 left in the game after scoring 15 points.

Owls forward Natasha Thames nearly recored a double-double of her own. Thames scored eight points and pulled down 15 rebounds.

Charlotte freshman Kira Gordon had a brilliant shooting night off the bench. The forward made five of her six field goal attempts, giving her 10 points on the night. Gordon had a lot to do with the 49ers outscoring the Owls in bench points, 15-0.

“We practiced those shots, so I was just waiting for my opportunity to show it off” Gordon said after the game.

Dowe contributed 12 points for Charlotte to go along with her eight rebounds.

Temple entered the game as the best in the nation in the category of three-point field goal defense, holding opponents to 23.5 percent on average. That number will improve as Charlotte only shot 20 percent from behind the arc. Hillary Sigmon (eight points) made Charlotte’s only two three-pointers.

However, Temple did not manage to make a three-pointer at all (0-11).

The Owls will return to Philadelphia for a home game against Saint Louis on Saturday.

The 49ers will also travel to Philadelphia this weekend for a tough conference matchup on the road against Saint Joseph’s. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

 

Charlotte sneaks past UMass, 66-65

The Charlotte 49ers (17-4, 5-2) survived a tight battle and outlasted the Massachusetts (UMass) Minutemen (14-6, 4-2), 66-65, in front of a sold-out Halton Arena on Saturday for Charlotte’s annual homecoming game.

With guard DeMario Mayfield suspended indefinitely and forward Darion Clark out with a bad ankle, the 49ers had to rely on others to step up and perform against the Minutemen.

After almost 40 minutes of physical play, nine ties and seven lead changes, the game came down to the final UMass possession.

Down by a point after a couple missed 49er free throws, the Minutemen had an opportunity to win on a Terrell Vinson three-point attempt. Vinson’s shot missed, but UMass star guard Chaz Williams collected the rebound and reset the play at the top of the key.

When Williams made his move towards the basket, Charlotte guard Pierria Henry poked the ball out, took it away and sprinted to the other end of the floor as the clock expired sealing a 49er victory.

“I think I got fouled,” Williams said of the final play of the game. “But I don’t know and I don’t want to put the game in the ref’s hands like that.”

“I fouled him,” said Henry with a smile on his face. “But it’s not in the record books.”

The Minutemen played a sloppy game to say the least. UMass compiled 19 turnovers among eight players and only dished out nine assists as a team. Charlotte turned the ball over 14 times, but did rack up 15 assists in the process.

Both teams were sub-par from the free throw line on Saturday, but the Minutemen struggled tremendously. As a team, UMass only made six of their 16 free throw attempts (37.5 percent).

Charlotte made 16 of their 26 free throw attempts (61.5 percent).

“It’s hard to win on the road when you go 6-16 on the free throw line and give them 19 offensive rebounds,” UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said after the game. “They’re one of the more physical teams we’ve played all year. They were physical in the post and physical on drives.”

Vinson led the way for UMass with 23 points on nine of 13 shooting. The senior also saw three of his six three point attempts connect, but certainly wishes one particular shot at the end of the game would have gone in.

Vinson and Williams took care of most of the scoring for UMass. Williams finished the game with 16 points including three treys of his own.

E. Victor Nickerson, who started the game in place of Mayfield, stepped up for Charlotte and led the team in scoring with 12 points. It is the fourth double-digit scoring game for the sophomore this season.

Also seeing more playing time in Mayfield’s absense, Ivan Benkovic scored 10 points off the bench, including three triples.

Chris Braswell did not start due to a pre-game coaching decision, but was effective in the 23 minutes he did play. Braswell scored nine points on four of 10 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds (five offensive).

Charlotte head coach Alan Major commented on his team’s performance saying “Today I thought it was like the go-to guy was the open man. Everybody that got in the game contributed. When you see a team rally around each other and fight for each other like that, I could not be prouder.”

After Saturday’s loss, the Minutemen will return home for an Atlantic 10 matchup against Rhode Island on Wednesday.

The 49ers will also play another Atlantic 10 conference game on Wednesday at Temple. Tip-off in Philadelphia is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball: state of the team

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The 49ers have won four of their six Atlantic 10 conference games so far this season, including a 63-57 victory against Xavier in Charlotte’s annual “whiteout” game. Photo by Chris Crews

As hard to believe as it is, March Madness is right around the corner. Soon we will all be filling out brackets and aimlessly predicting which teams will advance in the NCAA Tournament and how far they will go. The question is, will Charlotte be included in those brackets?

The easy answer is, well, possibly. The last time a 49ers team went dancing was the 2004-05 season when they finished 21-8 (12-4 A-10). This season’s squad is currently sitting at 16-4 (4-2 A-10). At this time in 2004, Charlotte was 14-4 (5-2 A-10).

I didn’t have the pleasure of watching the 2004-05 team, so I can’t adequately compare them to this year’s squad. However, I have had the opportunity to observe this team and witness their development throughout the season. There are things Charlotte is good at and things they are bad at. Some players have overachieved and some have not met expectations.

Let’s start with Charlotte’s strengths, and they’re easy to spot. Defense and rebounding are two of the most over-looked yet critical numbers on the stat sheet of a basketball game. Charlotte fortunately excels in both categories.

Freshmen forwards Darion Clark and Willie Clayton have been a big reason the 49ers are out-rebounding opponents by 3.2 a game. Both players are big, strong and physical and do a great job positioning themselves under the basket when shots go up.

Clayton leads the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game. He has recorded an impressive 71 offensive rebounds which is almost half of his total. Clayton’s efforts on the offensive glass have helped Charlotte beat most opponents in second chance points.

Defense is the other strength of Charlotte, and it is more of a concerted effort. The 49ers play outstanding team defense. They are great at rotating to help out on double teams and typically defend the pick and roll to perfection. A lot of this has to do with the team’s overall quickness, athleticism and toughness.

One of the first things I noticed about this team is how they pass the eye test. The squad is loaded with tall, athletic players that also come equipped with the quick feet that are vital to playing effective defense. The 49ers are holding opponents to a .378 shooting percentage this season and give teams a lot of trouble on the perimeter.

Specifically, Pierria Henry is a joy to watch on the defensive end of the floor. Without too much contact, he is always in the face of his man, bothering him and swatting at the ball. It must be working because Henry leads the team in steals with 54.

Defense and rebounding has saved Charlotte in a few games this season. It makes up for shooting and turnovers, the team’s weaknesses.

Overall field goal percentage has not been bad (.446). However, Charlotte is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country. As a team, the 49ers only make about 26 percent of the threes they shoot. This may have a lot to do with Charlotte’s lack of three-point shooters on the roster.

Freshman guard Denzel Ingram seems to be the purest shooter on the team. Ingram trails only E. Victor Nickerson and Ivan Benkovic in three-point shooting percentage, but has shot twice as many threes as both of his teammates.

Terrance Williams is a talented scorer, but has only seen two of his 29 three-point attempts connect. Pierria Henry is a great ball handler, passer and leader at the point guard position, but has only made six of his 31 threes.

Free throw shooting has been another Achilles heel for Charlotte this season. As a team, Charlotte only makes about 65 percent of their free throws while opponents are connecting on just over 70 percent.

Clark and Clayton’s superior athletic ability and physicality may come back to bite them when they get fouled in the process. Both players have struggled from the line all season. Clark is shooting just under 40 percent and Clayton is shooting just over 51 percent from the charity stripe.

Both of these players are freshmen and free throw shooting is a practice-makes-perfect aspect of the game, so I expect their numbers to improve over the next few years. Fortunately for Charlotte, senior Chris Braswell has been a solid free throw shooter. He has gotten to the line 77 times this season and makes about 73 percent of his foul shots.

Transfer graduate student JT Thompson leads the team in FT percentage. He has made 18 of his 19 attempts (.947).

Charlotte’s turnover problem is difficult to put a finger on. There’s no one player that seems to have the “turnover bug” all of the time. Pierria Henry has the most turnovers with 51 but that goes along with his team-high 66 assists.

Eight players on the 49ers roster have 21 turnovers or more on the season. As I mentioned before, this is a young team that has not even played together for a calendar year. For this reason I expect the assist to turnover ratio (0.8) to improve.

All of these statistics beg the question: what is this team’s destiny?

This Charlotte team has unbelievable potential and I believe they will finish the season with a record well above .500, something an Alan Major-coached Charlotte team has not yet done. In order to make the NCAA tournament, the 49ers will probably need to win the A-10 tournament in March. This will be a challenge but is a feat that is certainly possible, given the fact that the conference is as unpredictable this season as ever.

I think Alan Major and the 49ers have done a remarkable job at playing to their strengths and at the same time, not hiding from their weaknesses. Charlotte shoots about half as many three-pointers as their opponents, but they still shoot them to keep the defense honest. They may be making only 65 percent of their free throws, but Charlotte still gets to the line more than their opponents do on average.

The beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament is that virtually nobody can predict the outcome. I’m not sure it will happen this season, but this young squad is equipped with the building blocks that are necessary to make a tournament run in the future.

Free throw shooting must improve, turnovers will probably improve and three-point shooting, well, if you can’t shoot you can’t shoot.

However, this team is athletic, physical and deep. Defense and rebounding has been Charlotte’s bread and butter all season and it has carried them to an impressive 16-4 overall record. As the A-10 conference schedule heats up and we begin to figure out who is who, it will be interesting to see where the 49ers fit.

It will be interesting to see if their impressive defensive numbers are effected by tougher competition. It will be interesting to see if shooting and turnovers improve simply because of time.

With only a third of the season remaining, the 49ers have an NCAA Tournament birth in their eyesight. Soon, we will find out if Charlotte will be included in those brackets we all aimlessly fill out.

 

 

 

 

Mayfield suspended indefinitely

DeMario Mayfield is Charlotte’s leading scorer on the season, averaging 11.7 points per game. Photo by Chris Crews

Charlotte 49ers junior guard DeMario Mayfield has been suspended indefinitely for violation of athletic department policy.

Director of Athletics, Judy Rose, made the announcement on Wednesday of Mayfield’s suspension.

“We are disappointed to make this announcement,” Rose told the media. “Our policies are in place for a reason and our student-athletes are expected to abide by them.”

The 49ers have yet to release any more information on the matter.

Charlotte head coach Alan Major commented on the suspension saying “We are disappointed in the decisions that DeMario has made which has led to the suspension. We will stay the course and we will rally around each other.”

Mayfield started his first game of the season last week against Xavier. This is the junior’s second season in a 49er uniform after transferring from the University of Georgia.

This season Mayfield is averaging a team-high 11.7 points per game. His season high (18 points) came against Fordham in mid-January.

He is averaging 3.6 rebounds a game, shooting a .488 field goal percentage and shooting just over 70 percent from the free throw line.

Mayfield was also suspended for Charlotte’s season-opener in November, along with senior forward Chris Braswell, for violating team rules.