Ever lose your driver's license? It's a panicky feeling. If you can't find it quickly, all sorts of potential hassles loom. You often have a hard time proving who you are.
This is the Charlotte 49ers' dilemma. On Sunday, in a nasty 20-point home loss to Temple, they lost their own identity. They are scouring their wallets right now, trying to find it. And if they don't soon - starting Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in a home game against Dayton - their season will be over soon.
And that would be a shame, because this has easily been the 49ers' best season of Alan Major's three at the controls. The 49ers are a long way removed from their 9-0 start that was the best in school history. But even now they are 18-8 overall and 6-6 in the Atlantic 10. Only two weeks ago the 49ers upset then-No.10 Butler on the road.
That's the only win, though, in Charlotte's last five games. "We've got to get back to being more consistent defensively," said Major, who said Sunday's loss was "probably" the worst of the season for the 49ers. "We're at our best when the other team doesn't get into an offensive rhythm. We can be a team that gets multiple stops in a row."
That's the sort of defensive team the 49ers were when they won at Davidson by four points in December. Davidson coach Bob McKillop said later that the 49ers had knocked his team on its heels with a frantic brand of defense and energy.
Since then, though, the Wildcats have righted themselves and look quite likely to repeat as the Southern Conference champions and win the automatic NCAA berth that goes with that title. And Charlotte is likely on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament unless it goes on a major winning streak and gets to about 23 wins (including the conference tournament).
Major, though, doesn't fret about the possibilities. "I have no clue," Major said about the 49ers' tournament chances. "I will leave that to the bracketology experts - I'm very consumed with the moment."
The 49ers' scoring options thinned a month ago when DeMario Mayfield, the team's leading scorer at the time at 11.7 points per game, was suspended for a violation of athletic department policy. He was then kicked off the team last week. Mayfield's departure has certainly hurt.
"It put pressure on other guys to perform at a higher level," said Major, who is 13-31 in conference play over three seasons but is guaranteed his first winning record at Charlotte in 2012-13. "But that's OK."
Charlotte beat Butler without Mayfield but too often struggles to score without him. Forward Chris Braswell now has to be effective inside for the 49ers every game. Braswell went 1-for-6, scored four points and made three turnovers Sunday, and the 49ers couldn't recover.
Major likened the 49ers' loss Sunday to a day in baseball where everybody in the lineup goes either 1-for-4 or 0-for-4. "Doesn't happen too often," he said.
And if the 49ers are going to capitalize on their outside shot to make the NCAA tournament field for the first time since 2005, it simply can't happen again.
Scott Fowler: email@example.com; Twitter:@Scott_Fowler
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