|Defense Keys Unbeaten Start|
The chants from Niner Nation bounced off the walls and enveloped the court. And this wasn't at Halton Arena, this was at Davidson's Belk Arena.
Pierria Henry had just hit a gutcheck baseline jumper to give the 49ers a 71-69 lead on the road at Davidson.
As Davidson brought the ball up their home court in the closing minute, the large and loud 49ers contingent, spread in different sections of the arena, continued to chant for all to hear.
It has become the 49ers calling card.
When De'Mon Brooks drove into the lane his path was blocked by Darion Clark and Chris Braswell. He tried to get a shot up but he was off balance, falling to the floor as the 49ers stood their ground. His shot hit the bottom of the rim. Henry, ever-present, slashed in from the wing to grab the rebound.
His two free throws with 10.5 seconds left satisfactorily iced the game and the 73-69 victory.
Davidson shot 49% for the game and hit 5-of-11 threes, but still the 49ers defense set the tone. Henry had four of the 49ers nine steals. The 14 turnovers created produced 22 49ers' points.
In the paint, Charlotte limited Davidson to just six offensive boards while pulling 14 themselves.
Charlotte has held each of its eight opponents under 70 points in racing to a perfect 8-0 mark. In fact Davidson is the only one to score over 65. Charlotte has held six opponents under 37% shooting. In fact, Davidson is the only one to shoot over 45%. Charlotte has had five or more steals in seven games, including nine or more in five games.
Prior to the Davidson game, Charlotte ranked 7th in the NCAA in field goal defense and 39th in points allowed.
Did the 49ers defense affect Davidson?
"Absolutely," said Wildcats head coach Bob McKillop. "It completely disrupted our poise, in terms of running our system and it forced us into doing things that, I thought, were uncharacteristic. The frenetic nature put us on our heels."
Last weekend, East Carolina head coach Jeff Lebo sang a very similar tune: "They exerted their will upon us. They're as physical a team as we've faced this year, but we didn't execute particularly well ... their strength and size dominated the game."
Strength. Size. Frenetic nature. Music to the ears of any coach focused on defensive effort.
Before the Davidson game, 49ers head coach Alan Major stressed two attributes in his pregame speech: Energy and unselfishness.
The two are cornerstones of a quality defensive effort. Yes, size and strength are important assets - but energy and unselfishness are at the core.
You have to want it. You have to crave it. And you have to be willing to sacrifice.
McKillop said as much of Henry - but it actually pertains to the entire team's defensive culture.
"He has the physical tools and the emotional desire. When you combine those two ingredients, it's pretty lethal."