Charlotte 49ers interim coach Ryan Odom continues to look for the right combination in a starting lineup as his team slips toward the bottom of the Conference USA standings.
After using the same starters – center Mike Thorne, power forward Willie Clayton, small forward Terrence Williams, shooting guard Braxton Ogbueze and point guard Pierria Henry – for the season’s first 14 games, the 49ers have used five other combinations since in conference play. The 49ers (12-16, 5-10) play at Rice (10-17, 7-8) Saturday.
Some of the changes were disciplinary (Williams was late to a team breakfast before the Marshall game Jan. 10 and Henry was held out of the starting lineup at North Texas on Thursday after missing an academic “obligation,” according to a team spokesman).
But the other combos, which have included small lineups by sitting either Thorne or Clayton at the start, have been an attempt in part to help the 49ers start games more strongly. That didn’t work against North Texas, when the Mean Green jumped on 49ers starters Thorne, Williams, Ogbueze and freshmen Torin Dorn and Keyshawn Woods for what became a quick 28-11 lead before the game was 11 minutes old. Charlotte obviously never recovered.
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The 12th-place 49ers (12-16, 5-10) have work to do if they want to avoid being the lowest seed in the C-USA tournament March 11-14 in Birmingham, Ala. Charlotte has clinched a spot in the 12-team tournament, ahead of last-place Florida Atlantic (1-14) and Southern Mississippi, which has a self-imposed postseason ban.
With three games left in the regular season, Charlotte trails Marshall and Florida International, who are tied for 10th at 6-9.