By Ken Cross
The Charlotte 49ers are going to be at a size disadvantage in most of their games this season as coach Mark Price may have to employ a line up of Braxton Ogbueze, Jon Davis, Andrien White, and Anthony Vanhook to employ a small ball philosophy that will most assuredly be a weapon on most nights. The key though will be to make shots and get easy looks at the rim as all four players range from 6-1 to 6-4.
Tuesday night’s 91-74 loss at Wake Forest illustrated the importance of shot making. The 49ers started the game 2-of-13 from the floor and couldn’t score with the Demon Deacons as Wake went on a 17-0 run and burst to a 22-5 lead with 11:30 remaining. Charlotte had open shots, but couldn’t get them to fall.
“A lot of it is just making shots,” said coach Mark Price after the game, ” We had good shots most of the game. We have 10-11 days before the next games and have the opportunity to get in 6-7 practices before our next game so hopefully we can work on somethings and get the guys in the gym and hopefully those shots we are missing now, we can start making.”
With Van Hook and J.C. Washington in foul trouble, the margin for error tightened as the 49ers were held to 33.3 percent in the first half and tailed by 18 at the break. Interestingly, Charlotte made 17-of-30 in the second half and outscored Wake Forest by one.
Coming into the Wake Forest game, Charlotte had shot 43 percent or less in the last four contests, but were able to with stand numerous runs and win three of those. Foul trouble is also a huge key as Price is trying to develop players and bring them along to implore depth in his system.
“We are not very deep and we do not have size anyway,” Price said, “It (foul trouble) puts us in a tough position.”
The lack of size an production in the lane is also a problem that the speed game can help to hide with so many guards. However, Price was able to get some production out of Benas Griciunas in 15 game minutes as the 7-0 Lithuanian center scored five points with four boards and had a blocked shot. It was his fifth game in nine and the most minutes he had logged as he was much needed against the Deacons’ size inside
“It was good to see Benas get positive minutes,” noted Price, “We need somebody with some size out there. He came in the first half and did a pretty good job for us. It is something we need with our lineup being small.”
As the Niners go forward into the Conference USA season after a pair of dates with Florida and Maryland, the impetus for getting into a half-court game will be smaller; however, most CUSA teams want to play the up-tempo game because the league is, overall, guard heavy. That said, Price will look for shot selection to be a prime key for his team.
“We took some quick ones we probably shouldn’t have taken and we have to be more disciplined moving forward with those types of things,” said the second year coach, “We are not shooting the ball well from the outside now and it is something we have to change.”
Ogbueze was the one exception on Tuesday as he was 7-of-11 from the floor and made six triples to lead Charlotte with 20 points. He as just 10-of-46 in the Niners’ four games before the matchup with Wake Forest.
“It was good to see Braxton making some shots,” continued Price, “We have to have two three or four guys making some shots and for us we have to have that to be successful. Hopefully that gets him going as well.”