GAME NOTES: The ninth-seeded Charlotte 49ers make their return to the Conference USA Tournament on Wednesday as they take on the No. 8 UAB Blazers in the second round at the Don Haskins Center.
The winner of this game will advance to the quarterfinal round to face the top-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Thursday.
The 49ers, who are an original member of Conference USA, returned to the league this season after spending the last eight years as a member of the Atlantic 10. Charlotte is 15-8 all-time in C-USA Tournament games and won the 1999 and 2001 C-USA Tournament titles to advance to the Big Dance. Coach Alan Major guided his squad to a 3-0 ledger at neutral sites this season, including notable upsets of Michigan and Kansas State en route to the Puerto Rico Tip- Off Tournament Championship. Charlotte is netting 71.4 ppg, which is just 0.2 ppg more than it allows. The 49ers also outrebound their foes by 3.6 rpg.
The Blazers also managed to pull of a pair of upsets before entering conference play, knocking off Nebraska and North Carolina, so there is plenty of reason to fear coach Jarod Haase's squad in a one-and-done scenario. UAB is among the national leaders on the boards with 1,344 total rebounds (44.8 rpg). UAB has recorded 50 boards or more nine times and is 7-2 in those games. The Blazers ended the regular season on a two-game losing streak as they came up short against LaTech (67-58) and Middle Tennessee (55-53), which made up half of the four-way tie for first place in the league standings.
This will be the 41st meeting between the Blazers and 49ers in history. UAB leads the all-time series, 26-15, and has won four of the last five meetings, including a 64-62 decision at Halton Arena on Feb. 22. The first matchup of the 2013-14 between UAB and the 49ers went down to the wire, but starting center Fahro Alihodzic made a late tip-in to give the Blazers a late lead and Charlotte's sophomore point guard Pierria Henry lost the ball on his team's final possession.
Charlotte still has plenty of reason to go to Henry down the stretch. The 6- foot-4 floor general is the only player in the conference that averages double-figures points (12.6 ppg), at least five rebounds (5.2 rpg) and five assists (6.1) per game. For his efforts, Henry was named to the All-C-USA Defensive Team and the All-C-USA third-team. Sophomore guard Shawn Lester is contributing 12 ppg, while shooting 42.3 percent from the field. Willie Clayton (11 ppg) is pacing the 49ers and ranks fourth in the C-USA with 8.8 rpg.
While Henry is the clear go-to-guy for Charlotte, UAB will counter with its own standout point guard. Junior college transfer Chad Frazier became a superstar in his first season at the Division I level to rank third in the league in scoring at 17.7 ppg to go along with 4.3 apg, which landed him on the All-C-USA First Team, as well as being tabbed the C-USA Newcomer of the Year. Junior forward C.J. Washington also made his mark in his inaugural year at the school with averages of 13 ppg and 6.9 rpg. Senior forward Rucker has been consistent en route to post 10.9 ppg and is leading on UAB on the glass with 7.1 rpg.
When these schools first met, Charlotte was in the midst of a six-game losing streak that destroyed its chances of competing for the regular-season title. The 49ers have been a much improved unit since entering March, while UAB has less reason to be confident after suffering back-to-back setbacks in Birmingham. These teams are very even, so it is likely the outcome is decided in the closing seconds once again.
Game Date and Time