“Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The Blazers will take the court after back-to-back losses in the regular season for the first time since Dec. 1, 2015. While the previous two setbacks in Texas were extremely discerning, it’s worth noting that this core group of players has bounced back better than any of their conference peers the past two seasons.
This Thursday Bartow Arena will host two programs that are very familiar with each other. Since 1980, UAB and Charlotte have played 44 times, which is third most of any UAB opponent. The Blazers are 15-5 at home against the 49ers with the last loss coming during the Mike Anderson era in 2005.
Since the two teams became Conference USA mates once again in 2014, UAB has won both games in Charlotte by a margin of just two points. The lone home game for UAB during this time was won in overtime, 81-76, in January of 2015.
(An interesting tid-bit … that 2015 Charlotte team had three starters who transferred at the end of the season because of coach Alan Major’s firing. The three players went on to start for Illinois, North Carolina St., and Wake Forest once they became eligible. Needless to say, that was a very talented team.)
Mark Price is at the helm now and the 49ers are still trying to find their way in year two of rebuild mode though they are far from void at talent. Charlotte is another one of those teams that is capable of beating any Conference USA team on any given night, as well as losing to some of the worst teams in the conference.
Scouting The 49ers
Despite their 5-6 conference record. the 49ers are a talented basketball team that is really starting to gel with some of their young pieces. Like many Conference USA teams, they are thin in the front court and highly skilled at the guard position. Charlotte shoots the three as a team better than any in the conference (38 percent) and they have made the third most (177) behind Rice and Marshall.
The 49ers hit 21 3-pointers combined in their last two games and most nights they live and die by it. Never assume this team is beat either because behind their multiple 3-point threats they have stormed back to win or closely contest many games after being down double-digits in the second half.
For the third game in a row UAB is likely to face a 7-footer; though for how long is uncertain. I won’t spend terribly long on the Auburn transfer *Benas Griciunas because of late his minutes have been minimal, but in some games this season (Maryland, 12 points) he has played very well for the 49ers. If UTSA’s O’Brien can have a career night against us, so can this guy (*Potentially will sit due to injury).
Remember the name Jon Davis. Here’s the sophomore guard’s point totals over the last five games — 26, 19, 21, 19, 35. Davis is a 6-foot-3 tactical magician around the rim. If given a step he’s either scoring in the paint or he is getting fouled. He’s like Chad Frazier was for UAB years ago, but better. When he’s able to freely drive to the rim it opens up his guard counterparts Ogbueze and White who have hit 44 and 49 3-pointers. These two will hit open threes like they play for the Warriors.
The two primary “big men” for Charlotte are 6-foot-7 guard/forward Austin Ajukwa who transferred from Clemson and 6-foot-7 freshman forward Najee Garvin. Mark Price’s duo in the paint may be on the small side, but with Ajukwa especially the versatility he gets from him is a nightmare for opposing coaches to scheme against. Ajukwa had 30 points and 11 rebounds against FIU on Saturday and hit 3 3-pointers. He hit 4 3-pointers en route to 18 points the game before. He is a real dude with a power school body and game. Haha versus Ajukwa will be a grown man spectacle.
Highlights from Charlotte’s win over Oregon St.
3 Things To Watch For
- Tosin Mehinti – This is the type of game Tosin could really get some good, solid looks around the rim. I’m not saying lets give the big man 10 entry passes, but, he should find himself in a lot of mis-matches while he is on the court. Hopefully they’ll be mis-matches in our favor because I have no clue who he’d guard if we run man defense.
- Braxton Ogbueze – The senior Florida transfer is the only 49er who has played in Bartow Arena. Ogbueze had 3 points and 5 assists as a sophomore two seasons ago and over the last two season he has been a consistent starter for Mark Price. He is one of the few players in Conference USA who has hit 7 3-pointers in a game this season. I wouldn’t recommend letting this guy get hot.
- Defense – Assuming we actually play some, this is a game we will win.