The Charlotte 49ers (9-4) begin Conference USA play on the road at UTEP (10-5), Thursday, January 9 at 9 pm. The game will broadcast nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
Since the 1991-92 season, the 49ers are 11-11 in their league opener. Charlotte has won five of their last eight league openers including a 74-65 win over La Salle (January 9, 2013) at home in last season’s Atlantic 10 opener. The 49ers, who were an original member of Conference USA from 1995-2005, have won their last two Conference USA openers including a 72-60 win over East Carolina in their C-USA opener beginning their last season in the league (January 8, 2005). Charlotte was 5-5 in their first Conference USA road game during their first stint in the league. This will mark the 10th time since the 1991-92 season, that the 49ers will start league play on the road. After the 49ers play at UTEP (January 9), Charlotte will play UTSA on the road (January 11) which will mark the first time since the 1999-00 season, that the 49ers will play their first two league games on the road. Thursday’s game at UTEP will be the 49ers first Conference USA regular-season game since an 85-73 loss to USF on the road, March 5, 2005.
Last time out, Charlotte defeated North Carolina A&T, 88-72, in their final non-conference game, Saturday, January 4. Pierria Henry scored 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out seven assists, recorded four steals and blocked two shots. Willie Clayton recorded his 12th straight double-figure scoring game with 13 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds. Shawn Lester recorded his 11th double-figure scoring game of the season with 13 points off the bench. Mike Thorne scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Terrence Williams grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
Lester has scored in double-figures in 11 of Charlotte’s 13 games this season. Lester (13.8 ppg) leads the 49ers in scoring. Clayton (12.0 ppg), Henry (11.4 ppg), Williams (10.5 ppg) and Thorne (10.5 ppg) round out the 49ers double-figure scorers. Ingram averages 9.1 points per game. Henry leads Conference USA in steals per game at 2.67. Clayton is third in Conference USA in rebounding at 9.5 boards per game. Clayton leads Conference USA in offensive rebounds (5.0 per game). Ben Cherry has knocked down 24 threes in the last ten games. Cherry leads Conference USA in three-point field goal percentage (51.1%). Clayton leads Conference USA in field goal percentage (62.2%). Marcus Bryan has given the 49ers solid production off the bench this season so far.
UTEP enters Thursday’s game on a five-game winning streak. UTEP is led in scoring by Julian Washburn (11.2 ppg) and Vince Hunter (10.5 ppg). John Bohannon leads the team in rebounding at 9.9 boards per game. UTEP will be playing the rest of the season without Justin Crosgile (5.4 ppg), McKenzie Moore (13.1 ppg) and Jalen Ragland (3.7 ppg) who were just dismissed from the team.
Thursday’s game will mark the third meeting between Charlotte and UTEP. The 49ers have won both of the two previous meetings. Charlotte defeated UTEP, 86-58, in Halton Arena in their last meeting, December 18, 2001. Former 49ers standout Jobey Thomas led the 49ers with 24 points in that game. Charlotte defeated UTEP, 94-81, in the only other meeting in El Paso, December 20, 2000.
OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS - Since Willie Clayton joined the 49ers program, Charlotte has had more offensive rebounds than their opponent 27 times over his 46 game career. This season, Clayton averages 5.0 offensive rebounds per game. Comments by Michigan Coach John Beilein on Clayton’s offensive rebounding: “I don’t know if I’ve seen a better offensive rebounder in all these years. That kid (Willie Clayton) is unbelievable.”
FINAL NON-CONFERENCE GAME - After Charlotte’s 88-72 win over North Carolina A&T (January 4), the 49ers are now 19-4 since the 1991-92 season in their final non-conference home game. The 49ers are 17-6 since the 1991-92 season in their final non-conference game. Since the 2000-01 season, the 49ers are 11-3 in their final non-conference home game. Since the 2000-01 season, the 49ers are 10-4 in their final non-conference game.
CONFERENCE USA HIstory - The 49ers, who were an original member of Conference USA from 1995-2005, have returned to the league after spending the last eight years in the Atlantic 10. During the 49ers time in Conference USA, Charlotte captured two Conference USA Tournament titles (1999 and 2001) and a share of the 2004 Conference USA regular-season title. During the 49ers 10 years in Conference USA, Charlotte made seven trips to the NCAA Tournament and one trip to the NIT. The 49ers compiled an overall record of 191-117 and a Conference USA record of 99-57 from 1995-2005. Six times the 49ers won 20 games during their previous time in Conference USA. Two former 49ers standouts (DeMarco Johnson - 1998 and Eddie Basden - 2005) were named Conference USA Player of the Year. Former 49ers coach Melvin Watkins was named Conference USA Coach of the Year in 1997. Basden earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors twice (2004 and 2005). Rodney White was the 2001 Conference USA Freshman of the Year. Seven different 49ers earned first-team All-Conference USA honors. Galen Young was named Conference USA Tournament MVP in 1999 and Rodney White was named Conference USA Tournament MVP in 2001.
STATISTICAL LEADERS - Willie Clayton is 11th in the NCAA and first in Conference USA in double-doubles with seven. He is third in Conference USA in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and first offensive rebounds per game (5.0 off. rpg). Pierria Henry leads Conference USA and ranks 12th in the nation in steals per game (2.67 spg). Ben Cherry leads Conference USA in three-point field goals percentage (51.1%). Clayton leads Conference USA in field goal percentage (62.2%).
SHOOTING 60% FROM THE FIELD - Charlotte was 19-for-31 from the field for 61.3% in the first half of the 49ers win over USC Upstate (December 21). This marked the second time this season that the 49ers have shot over 60% in a half. The 49ers went 16-for-26 from the field for 61.5% in their win over Elon (November 15).
OVERTIME - The 49ers lost to Davidson, 87-78, in overtime (December 4). This marked the 49ers first overtime games this season. The 49ers are now 27-35 all-time in overtime games. Charlotte has now played at least one overtime game in each of the last six seasons. Charlotte played in a school-record five overtime games during the 2010-11 season. The last time Charlotte played Georgia Tech, the 49ers defeated Georgia Tech, 86-83, in double overtime, January 2, 2011.
POINTS IN THE PAINT - The 49ers outscored ETSU, 38-32, College of Charleston, 42-28, Elon 42-28 and UNC Asheville 38-22 in the paint. In the Michigan game, each team scored 22 points in the paint. Charlotte outscored Appalachian State 54-28 on points in the paint. The 49ers 54 points in the paint were the most points that the 49ers have scored in the paint since scoring 56 points in a 95-66 win over Gardner-Webb, December 12, 2009. The 49ers oustcored Georgia Tech 22-20 on points in the paint. Charlotte outscored North Carolina A&T 32-18 on points in the paint. Charlotte has now outscored their opponents on points in the paint 34 times in the last 46 games. This stats coincides with the arrival of Willie Clayton since Charlotte has played 46 games since Clayton has joined the team as a freshman last season.
DOUBLES-DOUBLES - Charlotte recorded 12 double-doubles last season. This season, the 49ers have nine doubles-doubles already. Willie Clayton is 11th in the NCAA with seven double-doubles this season. Clayton recorded the 49ers first double-double this season with 19 points and 13 rebounds at the College of Charleston (November 12). Clayton recorded his second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Elon (November 15). Shawn Lester recorded his first career double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds against Elon (November 15). Willie Clayton recorded his third straight double-doubles with 10 points and 10 rebounds against Kansas State (November 21). Mike Thorne recorded his first career double-double with 16 points and a career 11 rebounds against Kansas State. Clayton recorded a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds against Michigan (November 24). Clayton scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against UNC Asheville (December 1). Clayton recorded his sixth double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds against Davidson (December 4). Clayton scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds at Appalachian State (December 8).