By Ken Cross
Charlotte 49ers coach Mark Price was stressing resilience and confidence as the 49ers came home for the final two-game home stand against Western Kentucky and Marshall and Thursday night against the Hilltoppers, he saw those back on the court. The 49ers had lost five of their last six and were threatening to fall into the bottom four of CUSA, which would place them in an opening round game in Birmingham next week.
CUSA leading scorer Jon Davis once again took the reigns as his objective was to get the confidence of the struggling team moving in the right direction.
“I usually just try to go with the flow of the game,” he commented on how he implements the offensive game plan out of his point guard role, “At the beginning of the game, Braxton was hot. He had 15 points, I think. My mindset was to get him the ball.”
Ogbueze canned three triples in the first half as Charlotte controlled the game and led 38-30 at the break. Moving forward, White is a savvy point guard. he came into the game, shooting 50 percent from the floor and averaging 20.1 points per game.
Davis hit his groove late in the game as his confidence grew. He scored five quick points after Western Kentucky tied the game at 59 with 7:58 to play as he tallied 12 of his game-high 23 points inside of that last eight minutes. Davis’s leadership and confidence in attacking the Toppers’ defense, off the dribble or with his jumper was a huge variable in the much-needed win.
“Braxton and Andrien, I want to get my shooters hot and shots to go down as we go into tournament time. Once they get hot the dynamic of our team changes. I want to build confidence and that’s what we have needed over the last four or five games.”
Both shooters had struggled in the three proceeding losses to UAB, Middle Tennessee, and Old Dominion. Ogbueze was 6-of-18 from the field and White, much the same, 6-of-19.
“The dynamic of the team changes because when Braxton starts hitting shots, that allows me and Hook (Anthony Van Hook) to start driving and once I started driving, I hit ten points myself. That opens the shooter back up and I was just gong with the flow of the game.”
— Charlotte Basketball (@49ersBasketball) February 24, 2017
…And on to Marshall
Resilience and confidence were definitely on call after the Thundering Herd took a quick 21-9 lead in a fast-paced game that the Thundering Herd would eventually win, 93-89. Charlotte hit a 28-7 run midway through the half as the Niners reversed the deficit in taking a 37-30 lead. The least likely of characters in this plot was Anthony Hanhook, who celebrating senior day, who finished with 21 points. He eclipsed his career high of 20 at Marshall, earlier this season.
Leading 54-41 with 17:48 to play, the 49ers lost contact with Marshall scorers John Elmore and Stevie Browning on the perimeter. In addition, the lack of a post presence was once again crippling as Ajdin Penava, a 6-9 forward from Bosnia, asserted himself int he post.
“The biggest thing was, we got out of character offensively,” said Price, “They hit some shots. We came down and took three or four really quick shots – no-pass, one-pass shots. Thats not when we were playing our best basketball and allowed them to get back in the game. I told the guys int hat time out, up 13, not to let their guard down, that 13 was nothing to Marshall the way they score the ball.”
Penava scored all 14 of his points in the second half while Charlotte couldn’t stop Elmore off the dribble an were usually in a scramble when he got a step on the defender. Elmore, another savvy CUSA point guard, either scored off the drive or from the line or he found Browning for the three or Penava in the paint.