Ladies and gentlemen, Alan Major.
In just his third season as a head coach, Major had his 49ers playing solid, well-rounded, fundamental basketball against Xavier, a perennial NCAA Tournament team. The 16-3 49ers are now 4-1 in the A-1o after snapping the Musketeers’ four-game win-streak to start conference play.
Charlotte has a number of young players in its rotation and two juniors in Chris Braswell (12 points) and DeMario Mayfield (3 points, 3 blocks) who turn the ball over something fierce, so the 49ers needed something special to beat Xavier. That came in the form of freshmen Willie Clayton and Denzel Ingram, who combined for 26 points on a night when Clayton was perfect on six shots from the field.
Coming into the game, the 49ers needed to hit 3-pointers against a weak perimeter-defending Xavier team and Charlotte nailed five deep balls.
Xavier also lacked the fundamental necessity of free-throw attempts, only getting to the line nine times (4 of 9). Only Braswell had more than a pair of fouls on a night when the 49ers played well beyond their years.
Charlotte needed to control the turnovers on both sides of the ball. The 49ers committed 18 turnovers but also forced Musketeer freshman Semaj Christon into five miscues off the dribble. As Christon goes, Xavier goes and when the first-year point guard has a bad game, it often rubs off on the team and Wednesday night was no different.
The Musketeers started to adopt a frequent flaw of the 49ers in being overly-aggressive in pursuit and Christon was one of three players who fouled out for Xavier. Two additional players committed four fouls. Despite all their faults, Christon and fellow ejectee Travis Taylor finished with a game-high 18 points.
Oh, Xavier won the battle of the offensive glass, holding a 15-6 edge in offensive rebounds and outrebounded Charlotte 37-31 overall but if the 49ers can outplay Xavier in every part of the game except rebounding, the A-10 has one incredible bracket-buster.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter:@mgillmei. Like his Facebook page here for updates on Big 12/A-1o men’s basketball.