Charlotte has already matched their number of conference wins from a year ago after getting out to a 5-2 record in C-USA play. Meanwhile, FIU has won three conference games in a row to come into the weekend tied with Charlotte and L.A. Tech for third place in the Conference USA standings. Can the 49ers separate themselves from the pack with a win at hot against a surging Panthers team on Saturday?
Panthers extend winning streak to three gamesFlorida International pushed its current winning streak to three games on Thursday with a hard-fought 83-80 victory over Old Dominion. Freshman Eric Lovett scored a game-high 21 points off of the bench while Devon Andrews added 17 points on the night. Florida International shot 15-for-34 from long-range and turned the ball over just nine times to escape with the win.
Jeremy Ballard has helped the Panthers turn their season around following a tough 3-3 start. Florida International has since won 11 of its last 14 games to enter the weekend slotted at No. 152 in the latest KenPom rankings. FIU has scored 104.7 points per 100 possessions for the season (115th in the NCAA) while sporting an effective field goal percentage of 53.3 percent (115th in the NCAA). However, both of those numbers have been trending up since the start of conference play. Through seven C-USA contests, the Panthers have scored 108.4 points per 100 possessions (2nd in C-USA) while sporting an effective field goal percentage of 55.2 percent (2nd in C-USA). FIU lives and dies by the 3-ball on offense but the strategy has worked thus far. The Panthers have attempted 44.9 percent of their total shots from 3-point range (4th in C-USA) and they’ve connected at a blistering 41.4 percent clip (1st in C-USA) during league play. However, they’ve shot just 49.6 percent from inside the arc (11th in C-USA) and 64.6 percent from the charity stripe as a team (12th in C-USA) during that span.
On defense, Florida International has given up 104.0 points per 100 possessions for the season (203rd in the NCAA) despite forcing opposing teams to turn the ball over 21.0 percent of the time (80th in the NCAA) and holding them to just 28.5 percent shooting from long-range (16th in the NCAA). While all of those numbers have dropped during league play, perhaps most concerning for the Panthers has been their performance on the glass. They have allowed C-USA opponents to sport an offensive rebounding rate of 34.3 percent (14th in C-USA), which has made it difficult for them to get stops on defense.
Young ties career-high with 24 points in winCharlotte squeaked by Florida Atlantic 70-68 on Thursday night behind 24 points from freshman guard Jahmir Young. Jordan Shepherd scored 13 points and Malik Martin added 12 for the 49ers, who overcame an early 15-point deficit to snap a two-game losing streak.
Ron Sanchez’s second season at Charlotte has been a success, for the most part. Following an 8-21 season in Year 1, Sanchez has the 49ers off to an 11-7 start and they’ve already equaled their number of C-USA wins from a year ago after getting out to a 5-2 record in seven games. The 49ers come into the weekend ranked No. 167 in the latest KenPom rankings despite ranking among the worst offensive teams in the country. Charlotte has scored 96.9 points per 100 possessions for the season (275th in the NCAA) and only 95.2 points per 100 possessions (13th in C-USA) during conference play. Through seven league contests, Charlotte has turned the ball over on 21.7 percent of their offensive possessions (13th in the C-USA) while sporting the worst offensive rebounding rate in the conference at 17.8 percent (14th in C-USA). However, they’ve managed to make up points by sporting the No. 1 free-throw rate in the conference at 47.1 percent.
On defense, Charlotte has given up 96.7 points per 100 possessions for the year (84th in the NCAA) but the 49ers have been even stingier during conference play, limiting C-USA opponents to just 94.8 points per 100 possessions (2nd in C-USA). The 49ers do a good job of forcing turnovers and defending the 3-point arc. They have forced opponents to turn the ball over 21.4 percent of the time during league play (4th in C-USA) while holding them to just 26.5 percent shooting from -point range (1st in C-USA).