The Charlotte 49ers have become one of the better 3-point shooting teams in college basketball, due mostly to two players.
Sophomore guard Denzel Ingram is hitting 53.2 percent of his 3s, which ranks ninth nationally and is tops in Conference USA; and senior Ben Cherry is making 50 percent, tied for 19th in the country and second in the league.
But the 49ers’ 3-point threats go beyond Ingram and Cherry (who played at Myers Park). Junior guard Terrence Williams (West Meck) is making 38.5 percent. Sophomore Shawn Lester (Mooresville) is fighting a shooting slump and is at 28.4 (making 23 of a team-leading 81 attempts).
As a team, the 49ers lead Conference USA at 38.8 percent (39th nationally). That’s a marked improvement over coach Alan Major’s first three teams at Charlotte, which shot 26.8 percent last season, 32.5 percent in 2011-12 and 33.3 percent in 2010-11.
It has been several seasons since the 49ers have had this kind of threat from the outside. And to have at least two players who can shoot it as well Ingram and Cherry is something else entirely.
Ingram came to Charlotte from Chapel Hill High with a reputation as an excellent shooter. But he struggled as a freshman, making just 28.9 percent of his 3s. Cherry, a transfer from Tulane, made 50.0 percent of his shots from long range last season for the Green Wave.
They are both on pace to break 49ers single-season 3-point percentage marks based on their eventual number of attempts. Jeff West has the school marks of 50.0 percent (25 of 50 in 1988-89) for at least 50 attempts and 46.2 (42 of 91 in 1987-88) of at least 75; Byron Dinkins’ 45.1 (50 of 111 in 1987-88) of at least 100 and Jobey Thomas’ 43.3 (110 of 254 in 2001-02) of at least 200.
The 49ers don’t rely on the 3-pointer – it accounts for 28 percent of their total shots. East Carolina (second behind the 49ers in the conference at 37.4 percent) shoots the 3 more often at 41 percent of the time.
• Surprise of the young conference season so far has got to be Texas-El Paso, which is 2-1 in the league after having three players dismissed from the team for alleged gambling. The Miners, after losing their opener to Charlotte, have beaten Marshall at home and won at Middle Tennessee on Thursday, snapping Middle’s 25-game home winning streak against conference teams. Coach Tim Floyd’s team has a tough assignment at Alabama-Birmingham (12-4, 1-1) on Saturday.
• First-place Louisiana Tech (15-3, 3-0) held Tulane scoreless from 3-point range (0-of-14) in a 73-45 victory Thursday.
• The league’s leading scorer continues to be East Carolina guard Akeem Richmond (19.6 ppg). Richmond went to Sanford’s Southern Lee High, where he finished his career as the state’s No. 2 career scorer (2,846 points). He started his career at Rhode Island, and was an all-Atlantic 10 rookie team player in 2009-10.
• Two of the league’s favorites – Louisiana Tech and Southern Missisissippi (15-3, 2-1) play the biggest game of the season so far on Sunday in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Charlotte’s victory Thursday against Tulsa improved the 49ers’ RPI to 113, according to Realtimerpi.com. Charlotte’s only two quality wins, however, remain Michigan and Kansas State, while the website terms defeats against College of Charleston, Davidson, Georgia Tech and Texas-San Antonio as “bad losses” (UTSA especially so).
Conference USA has two teams in the top 100 – Southern Mississippi at 48 and Louisiana Tech at 91. The league is ranked 14th among the country’s 32 Division I conferences.
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