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December 19, 2011

Charlotte takes fifth straight




CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte 49ers pulled out their fifth straight win Monday night, outlasting Coppin St. 74-63 to move to 7-2 on the season.

Coppin State was paced early on by Akeem Ellis, who scored the first seven points of the game for the Eagles en route to a 21-16 lead with 7:30 left in the opening half. Ellis stepped up in the early absence of Tony Gallo (19 ppg), who didn't start for Ron Mitchell's Eagles.

"I didn't sugar coat it, I just told him I needed a big game out of him," Mitchell said of Ellis.

Mitchell's club, like many teams, threw a 2-3 zone at Charlotte, forcing the 49ers into 16 first-half three-pointers, 11 of which they missed. Mitchell said the game plan coming in was to take Charlotte big man Chris Braswell out of the equation.

"We knew they were going to shoot it, but we wanted to take the big kid out of it, so we went zone," Mitchell said. "Wanted to have an opportunity to put hands on shooters. We weren't getting out to them, weren't talking enough and eventually just constantly tried to change defenses to find something."

Sparked by senior Javarris Barnett and freshman sensation Pierria Henry, Charlotte closed the half on an 18-5 run and led 36-26 at the break.

In Charlotte's most recent win, an 84-61 thrashing of the Davidson Wildcats, the 49ers won the second half 54-30. Monday night was a different story.

Coppin St. came out of the gates and held Charlotte to just six points over the first nine minutes of the half, closing the gap to 44-41 on an Ellis layup with 10:42 remaining in the game.

Coming off the bench, Jamar Briscoe provided a much-needed spark for the 49ers, converting a steal and layup with 9:06 left to push the Charlotte lead back to eight, 49-41.

"Adversity always brings it out, that's how I was brought up," Briscoe said. "I went with the rhythm, went with the flow. As a scorer, when you hit one, the next one always feels good after that."

Seven is as close as the Eagles ever got though, as Charlotte held on for a 74-63 win.

"We did not rebound the basketball, we came out sluggish," Mitchell said. "We made stops, but we didn't go and secure rebounds. We're not a big team, and because we're not a big team, we need everybody to aggressively pursue the ball."

The 49ers were paced by Barnett, who scored a career-high 26 points and also grabbed 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and fifth of his career. Ellis led the way for Coppin St. with a season-high 29 points, four rebounds and five assists.

The 49ers also got 14 bench points and three rebounds from Briscoe, while Henry added 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block. The Niners won the rebounding battle 39-34 and outscored Coppin St. 14-2 in fast-break points.

Charlotte returns to Halton in just two days when they take on the Miami Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m.

"I'm excited," Major said. "If you want to be a team that maxes out and tries to become as good as you can, you want to see what you're made of against very good talent. We have three BCS teams in a row coming up, two of those on the road. I would hope that our guys will enjoy the challenge."

Observations:

It is what it is: I hate to tear a page out of John Fox's book, but it is what it is, and a win is a win. That being said, I would liked to have seen the Niners put a dagger in Coppin St. coming out of halftime. Granted, Charlotte won by double-digits, but tonight wreaked of the Radford game (Charlotte won by eight) and was closer late than it should have been. Major will be happy as long as Charlotte wins, but not having that killer instinct is setting them up for another potential ETSU ending.

Voncina: This is a weird situation to say the least. The school puts out a release prior to the game saying he'll attend the game but won't play due to "personal issues." Also sounds like he'll attend Thursday's bout with Miami but not play, then travel back to Slovenia, meaning he would more than likely miss critical games against Arkansas and Memphis. I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly what was going on, but this smells an awful lot like a transfer situation. Here's what Major had to say post-game about the situation.

"Obviously, that's completely up to him (on when he comes back to the team). I don't know what's going on and I've tried not to over comment because I don't know for that reason, especially out of respect for him. It's a personal family issue. All we try to do is really be as supportive as we can and wrap our arms around him because everybody has gone through that on some level. As he continues to get more information as he gets back, we'll take it a day at a time."

Williams sees increased playing time: One player that didn't have a huge impact on the scoreboard but raised some eyebrows was freshman Terrence Williams. The local product saw his second-most minutes of the season (11), scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and had one assist.

"I think he's growing," Major said. "He's practiced very consistently over the last month and whenever you're a freshman, you ump into college basketball and your first realization is that your not quite able to do all the things you could in high school. That was the first month of practice when he figured that out. Even if it's not in terms of scoring, it's defense, it's rebounding, he's giving us energy off the bench. I'm very proud of the way he's come along."

Turnovers: Charlotte continues to improve in the turnover department, something that plagued them early in the year. The 49ers had just 12 against Davidson a week ago and dropped the number to a season-low nine in tonight's win over Coppin St.

"This is our second game in a row where that number has dropped," Major said. "Against a team that does a lot of different things defensively like Coppin, to be able to take care of the basketball … We missed some easy ones, but I thought other guys did a good job of finding JB and finding Deuce. That's a mark of an unselfish team."

Notes: Charlotte has led at the half in seven of nine games this year, they're 6-1 in those games. … The five-game win streak is the longest of Major's career. During that streak, each opponent has been held under 66 points and 40 percent shooting. … Derrio Green went scoreless (0-4) on his birthday.







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