By Ken Cross
The Charlotte 49ers may have fallen to 1-9 in Conference USA play after Saturday night’s 78-73 loss to Middle Tennessee State, but clearly this team has the moxy and pride to stay the course and try to improve itself. Much of that mindset comes from the positivity of interim-head coach Houston Fancher. He has an innate will to compete and his players have played off his mindset and stayed the course.
“You would have no idea what our record is if you walked into one of our practices,” said Fancher on Saturday evening, “They are practicing that hard and they are still chasing a dream, still chasing what they are working for. To me, that’s what winning is. Each one of those games, except for Old Dominion, we are involved in the game with seven or eight minutes to go – a couple with four.”
As if the 49ers didn’t have enough problems, sharp-shooter Ryan Murphy broke his foot in shoot around on Saturday morning. Then, guard Andrien White, the team’s second leading scorer, went down with a potential concussion in the first half. Yet, the pride and character of the players Fancher dressed showed once again against a Blue Raiders’ team, which is totally capable of a couple of NCAA Tournament wins in March.
“To see the growth we saw tonight in this team against the top team in the league…we could have turned and ran and lost by 20,” noted Fancher, “We fought back and got the ball with an opportunity to come down and tie, down by three.”
The growth and pride of the players is something Fancher has cultivated. He has Charlotte playing with more intensity and enthusiasm than they have all year.
FINAL | #49ersMBB falls to Middle Tennessee 78-73.
Jon Davis w/ 20 PTS, 3 REBS, 4 AST.
Najee Garvin w/ 17 PTS, 3 REBS.
Austin Ajukwa w/ 12 PTS, 7 REBS.
The Niners return to Halton Arena on February 15 to take on UTEP. pic.twitter.com/ioCx5h9j2i
— Charlotte Basketball (@49ersBasketball) February 4, 2018
Now the key is to turn those critical intangibles into wins.
“Where we are at 1-8 coming into this game, we could have every reason to quit in terms of our record,” explained Fancher, ” We could stop playing right now. It is what it is and we could move on, but they are hungry for that next win and I am hungry for them. It’s why I enjoy coaching them so much.”
Davis’s shot was just a tough break in what has been an even tougher season. He had the ball and hoisted about a 35-foot shot with eight seconds remaining. Davis, on a glance, thought there was 0.8 seconds remaining. There’s no arguing with Davis on one shot in a frozen moment. He is the team’s leading scorer at 15.3 point and dishes 5.1 assists per game and his leadership role on the court has helped keep these players together.
“Jon shot an ill-fated three there where he thought there was less time on the clock than what there was,” said Fancher, “What he does on the floor for us is irreplaceable.”
Fancher pointed at Najee Garvin who was 7-of-12 from the floor with 16 points and Austin Ajukwa who tried to keep the outmanned 49ers involved on the glass with seven rebounds. Now, the key is to move forward and get wins.
“They have done the right things and you want to see those guys rewarded because of how hard they have worked,” said Fancher, “People get tired of being close. They get tired of me saying, ‘Guys, good effort.’ Ultimately, they want to say, ‘We won tonight!'”