The Niners find themselves in unfamiliar territory going into their third A10 game of the season: 1st-place. But unfamiliar territory has been a theme for Charlotte (9-5, 2-0 A10) this season as they have played nine of 15 games away from Halton Arena with the next stop being the Mullins Center, home-court of Massachusetts (12-4, 1-1 A10). The Minutemen are 8-0 at home this season, but only one of those victories (Davidson, 73-65) is against a team in the RPI Top 175. Charlotte is arguably (even if solely because I am arguing it) the best team to visit UMass this season.
Charlotte and UMass have an interesting history since the 49ers joined the A10, they were there for our peak and our rock bottom. It only seems fitting that the Minutemen stand between the Niners and their assertion in the 2012 Atlantic 10 race.
The Minutemen boast a high scoring offense, putting away 77.2 points a game. Their offense runs through point guard Chaz Williams (5’9″ 175 lbs) who scores 15.7 PPG while dishing out 6.9 APG. Williams transferred from Hofstra after his freshman year and sat out last season. He is a volume scorer and even though he shoots better than 40% from long range he only averages four 3-point attempts a game. He shoots only 39% from inside the arc, but will take most of his shots there. It will be interesting to see what Pierria’s Henry’s tactics are to shut him down and force him into bad shots. Williams also boasts 3.3 turnovers a game, which will have his defender, Henry, wide-eyed from the tip.
UMass gets 9.1 PPG from PF Raphiael Putney and another 8.6 PPG from his help off the bench, Sampson Carter. Neither of the two break the two-hundred pound barrier and are in for a rude awakening when they try to take their game against Javarris Barnett. They both get a lot of their points inside but will step out for the occasional long shot, still in Barnett’s comfort zone. When Javarris has the ball on offense he should find about as much resistance as he did against Richmond. Chris Braswell will be posted up by Sean Carter (6’9″ 225 lbs), who is 9th in scoring for the Minutemen at 6.2 PPG. Carter only takes 4.5 shots a game, but might have to take more with the rest of the front court at a size disadvantage.
The Minutemen perimeter is patrolled by Freddie Riley (very streaky), Terrell Vinson and Jesse Morgan, who all score between eight and nine points a game. These three players are all 6’5″ or taller which could cause trouble if they can pass and/or shoot over Deuce Briscoe and Derrio Green. If either of these players get hot Major should look to match their length with E. Victor Nickerson and Terrence Williams, along with starter DeMario Mayfield.
Charlotte will have to play smothering defense and force turnovers, much like the last two games, to find themselves in this game. If Charlotte’s offense can find points like it did against Richmond the Niners will be in control of the game well before it’s over. The Mullins Center is where Derrio Green’s best game as a Niner took place, when he scored 34 points (8/16 3pt FG) while Charlotte won by double-digits; he may once again find that swagger.
With Dayton (2-0 A10) going to the hostile confines of St. Bonaventure tomorrow before hosting La Salle (Also 2-0 A10, playing Penn tonight) the Niners could get lonely at the top by taking care of their next two. But first things first, if Charlotte wants this time on top to last more than a minute then Massachusetts has to fall.