Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Charlotte uses balance and defense to keep winning

January 13, 2013 Columns No Comments
charlotte

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. – Charlotte was one team in the Atlantic 10 that was a little tough to project coming into conference play. They had a nice non-conference run, winning the Great Alaska Shootout as part of a nine-game winning streak to open the season. They have opened Atlantic 10 play with two straight wins, the latest a 58-50 win at Rhode Island on Saturday that showed how this team will win some games this season.

Charlotte didn’t play the toughest non-conference schedule around, but they won most of their games and some were against good teams that aren’t NCAA Tournament locks. Their only losses came at Miami and at home to Florida State. While there’s no shame in losing to those two, they also represent missed opportunities for significant wins for their NCAA Tournament resume. They also played just two true road games, although the wins in Alaska, much as none were against powerhouses, have some value as well.

The 49ers have made their mark at the defensive end, as they allow opponents to shoot below 37 percent from the field and force nearly 15 turnovers per game. Only four opponents have shot 40 percent or better from the field, and keeping that going took a little work on Saturday. In particular, it required a big second half, and they got just that as they held Rhode Island below 27 percent from the field after the Rams shot 52.4 percent in the field half.

“We’ve got to hang our hat on that,” said head coach Alan Major. “We’ve been fortunate to have some depth this year, we’ve been able to play eight, nine guys at times.”

That was how they turned the game around, as they trailed throughout the first half. The 49ers shot just 37.3 percent from the field, which is lower than what Rhode Island shot, but they won it largely with extra possessions (a 45-25 rebounding edge that included 15 offensive boards and committing just two more turnovers than Rhode Island).

This is a team without a star, although they’re not lacking in talent or players capable of winning some individual honors down the road. The one who might be the closest to that is freshman Willie Clayton, who posted a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds on Saturday, and that came two games after he grabbed 16 rebounds. In fact, Chris Braswell is the leading scorer and might have the best overall numbers, but he isn’t the team’s best player.

Charlotte also likes the depth they have developed, as Major alluded to, and not just in the numbers. The staff feels like a number of players could put up even bigger numbers if the team was coached differently, but the wins might not be there. They feel like the chemistry is a big part of how they have won, with Major talking often about a “community service project” with this team in how they win. It might not be visually pretty, it might not make for the kind of box scores one is used to seeing, but it’s hard to argue with a 14-2 record overall, including 2-0 in early Atlantic 10 play.

“One group picks up the trash and the other group cleans the pool,” said Major. “I think that’s a strength, and as we continue to move forward, I think that can really help us, where you don’t have to rely on one or two guys to carry you for the whole game.”

One thing the 49ers have not had to deal with that young teams often do is an inconsistent starting lineup. Major has used just three lineups thus far, and one of the lineup changes started from an injury to Victor Nickerson after he started the first three games. The staff hasn’t seen any issue with players who have moved out of the lineup, and the team’s winning doesn’t hurt.

As a sign of their depth, none of the 49er starters on Saturday scored in double figures. The only one who did that was DeMario Mayfield, who had 17 points on 5-10 shooting.

You won’t watch Charlotte and think you’re seeing an offensive clinic, although they’re not a bad team at that end of the court at all. There isn’t a shooter who strikes fear in opposing defenses, and they shoot 28 percent from long range. They have more turnovers than assists on the season, and Saturday didn’t change that trend as they had 10 assists with 13 turnovers.

The way Charlotte wins is with defense, balance and taking manageable shots at the offensive end. Despite the jump shooting struggles, the 49ers are shooting over 45 percent from the field. That’s a sign that they get shots they can make. They also get to the free throw line about 24 times a game.

Charlotte will need to get some significant wins in Atlantic 10 play if they are to reach the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. They will have some chances given the conference’s strength, and it helps that Temple is their only repeat opponent as the Owls have an RPI in the top 30. Butler, VCU and UMass look to be solid RPI opportunities as well. The win over La Salle could look better later on (the Explorers’ RPI is 50 entering the past week), as could the win over Northeastern in Alaska as the Huskies are 4-0 in the CAA.

Charlotte started off 2-0 in the Atlantic 10 last season, but they then lost six of seven en route to a 5-11 record. That’s one more reason Major is turning the page and not thinking about that. This year’s team looks more mature, with sophomores that grew through last season’s struggles and freshmen like Clayton that are helping them win, not just putting up numbers. They also have an identity. The next step is for that to translate into more wins.

Comment on this Article:







Advertisement

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Your Phil of Hoops

Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by

unlv

Teams often grow from early season tournaments, and that appears to be what UNLV did in Brooklyn. The young Runnin’ Rebels need the experience.

Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

November 22, 2014 by

syracuse

Jim Boeheim didn’t have many things to say about his team’s offense, but that said it all. It’s at that end of the floor that Syracuse’s fate this season will be determined.

Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

November 20, 2014 by

brown

Brown has good talent and should be a factor in the Ivy League, but with three sophomores starting on the perimeter, growing pains are in the foreseeable future

Hoopville Archives

Reader Poll

Best win November 2014-15
Which team has the best win thus far on the young season?

2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

New England Prep Schools 2014-15: looking back and looking ahead

November 3, 2014 by

nepsac

With a series of prep school open gym visits in the book and the season not far away, here’s a look back at open gyms and a look forward to the season in the New England prep school ranks.

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

riversschool

The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.