The last time the Charlotte 49ers faced the EZU Pirates, it was the Niners who were forced to walk the plank, losing 54-51. That game featured an ice storm that kept many faithful from making the drive to Greenville and a dominating performance by Moussa Badiane (16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a key charge drawn) and a dreadful shooting night by the Niners (18-56 from the field). Though the faces on the court have changed in the years since the last game, revenge will be on the minds of fans as Halton Arena welcomes the scourge of the Carolinas with a blackout Wednesday night.
EZU enters the game 2-4 (sorry, the win against Clinch Valley College doesn’t count) with their most recent contest a win Saturday at fellow slave-name institution, UNC Greensboro. Despite the poor record, the Pirates should not be taken lightly by the Niners (really, no argggggguing with me). EZU shoots a very high percentage from the field (47.0%) and gets to the line regularly (nearly as many makes as their opponents attempt). The Pirates are also adept rebounders, enjoying a more than 5 rpg. advantage over their opponents. Where EZU struggles is maintaining possession. Turnovers have been the key stumbling block in the early season, with the Pirates averaging nearly 20/game.
A surprising source of frustration has been the play of Jr. PG Brock Young, who last year was second in the NCAA with 7.57 assists/game and a healthy 2.44 assist:turnover ratio. Despite leading the team in scoring this season (14.4 ppg.) he’s actually committed more turnovers than assists, possibly out of a desire to create more for the team and be the focal point of the offense. The Niners must head caution to his ability to make things happen for the Pirates and not take his turnover problem for granted tomorrow night as he looks to create for a very potent frontline for EZU. Terrific young forward Darrius Morrow has emerged as a rising star in his sophomore season, averaging 13.6 ppg. on 63.6% shooting and 7.0 rpg. Morrow is joined in the paint by Jr. C Chad Wynn, who is chipping in just over 9 ppg. On 59.2% shooting and 5.3 rpg. Rounding out the perimeter for EZU are wings Jontae Sherrod (12.6 ppg., 35.5% from 3) and Jamar Abrams (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg.). For the Pirates Wednesday night, the focus should be clear: limit turnovers and use strong interior play to get quality looks and draw fouls. On the defensive end, force the Niners into tough shots and use the rebounding advantage to limit second-chance scoring opportunities.
The Niners will counter with standout forward Shamari Spears. Through 4 games Spears has asserted himself in the early mix as an A10 POY candidate averaging 24.3 ppg. on a scorching 62.3% shooting from the field. Another bright spot in the revamped Niner front court has been the play of frosh forward Chris Braswell. Last week against Hofstra, Braswell notched the second double-double of his young career with a 15 point, 11 rebound performance in the victory. Where concern rises is the scoring beyond Spears. Despite having 7 other players reach double-figures in scoring already this season, no consistent second and third options have emerged. DiJuan Harris. Derrio Green, and Shamarr Bowden are each averaging between 8.0 and 9.2 ppg.; however, neither are shooting better than 40% from the field. In fact, it’s not until 6th leading scorer Phil Jones (6.6 ppg.) do the Niners have a player shooting better than 40% from the field (and that being a low figure for a post player). Bowden is the quintessential case of inconsistency, having not reached double-figures in scoring since his 21 point eruption against Asheville in the season opener. Help should be on the way shortly, with the return of An’juan Wilderness to the lineup, but not until Saturday against Louisville. Until then, the Niners will have to continue to search for consistent scoring. Hopefully deliverance will come in the form of better shooting, with signs that Derrio Green is emerging from his early shooting slumber. – NLP
Keys to the game for EZU:
- limit turnovers (absolute must for the Pirates)
- maintain a rebounding advantage
- dominate the Niner interior (really no one has done this yet)
Keys to the game for Charlotte:
- shoot the ball better (>45% will be a feat)
- get offensive rebounds
- force Brock Young to try to do too much himself