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Let’s play two
The Forty-Niners return home Saturday afternoon to Halton Arena after two nail-biting losses in Florida versus FAU and FIU by a combined six points. The Niners lost consecutive games earlier in the season and quickly rebounded with their best basketball of the season. The opportunity is there this weekend for the team to get back on track with two Texas schools coming to town, UTSA and UTEP who currently rank 10th and 11th in the conference.
UTSA enters Halton on Saturday with a 7-10 record and is having a bit of a letdown season at the moment. At 1-5 in conference, and most of those losses have not been close at all. The Roadrunners have four starters averaging double digit points, and a key player to keep an eye on will be 6’11” Senior Jacob Germany, who is averaging 11.4 points and 7.5 assists this season. His physicality down low is something the Niners and Aly Khalifa could struggle with, even moreso when if Germany is on the court while Khalifa sits. Though I’d anticipate those guys matching minutes as much as possible.
On the defensive side of the ball UTSA likes to run a lot of zone defense begging the opponent offense to shoot the three. This leads to a lot of open shots, also giving up a fair amount of offensive rebounds. This shapes up to a great opportunity for the wings like Jackson Threadgill or Brice Williams to attack the rim for second chance points. Overall this is a good matchup for Charlotte if they are able to hit the open shots they have most of the season that unfortunately didn’t fall on the Florida roadtrip. ESPN analytics is currently giving Charlotte a 97% chance of winning, but as we all know, anything can happen in college basketball. Vegas has Charlotte -14.5 as of Friday night.
A look ahead to MLK Day Showdown
Charlotte will have Sunday off before a Marin Luther King Jr Day matinee tip off at 4:00pm on Monday against the UTEP Miners. UTEP is coming in off a home victory against Charlotte’s Saturday opponent UTSA. The Miners had problems early with UTSA’s zone defense and were down 19-5 just eight minutes in before Guard Tae Hardy and reserve Forward Jonathan Dos Anjos shots began falling. UTEP runs a lot of different sets and will be an interesting opponent for Charlotte to handle with nine players averaging more than 15 minutes. It is not out of the realm of possibility for head coach Joe Golding to sub out all five starters after a possession, it’s what lead to their comeback victory on Wednesday night. Another team however that lines up nicely for the roster Charlotte has built. The Forty-Niners haven’t guarded the three particularly well this season and UTEP shoots it at under 30%. Charlotte likes to limit the possession and also create turnovers.UTEP is careless with the ball, averaging almost 17 per game. ESPN analytics currently give the Niners a 89.5% chance of taking down the Miners, there is no spread available yet for this matchup.
Overall this weekend is a get right weekend for Charlotte. It is their only two home games of the month, and after losing back-to-back winnable games on the road, these are must win games. Charlotte is 7-0 at Halton Arena so far this season and I’d bet 9-0 by Monday evening. Besides two wins, what should Charlotte fans look for out of these matchups to call them a success? A continued effort from the roster that was seen against FAU last Saturday to start. They’ve shown all season that no deficit is too big to overcome, having that game within two late while it was a 15 point game through most of it. Secondary scoring seems to be a problem at the moment. Igor Milicic and Aly Khalifa’s scoring have tailed a bit since Milicic was sick and Khalifa dislocated his finger. Jackson Threadgill hasn’t played great since recovering from the flu, he’s putting up only 4 points per game in CUSA play. Tre Gipson continues to find his stroke from outside which has been exciting to see, shots he was normally passing on have been falling. Lu’Cye Patterson continues to thrive on defense and is really finding his footing when being the lead ball handler on the court . Isaiah Folkes continues to show absolute tenacity on defense and provide a spark of the bench.
It’s just the beginning for this team, they’ll bounce back before three road games to close the month out. Tickets are still available for both games on the Charlotte ticket office website, let’s fill Halton Arena!