The Charlotte 49ers’ season-long propensity to start games slowly begs not one, but two, questions:
1. Is it time for the 49ers to consider a change in their starting lineup?
2. Why hasn’t Charlotte already made a change?
When the 49ers (6-8, 0-2 Conference USA) lost 74-66 against Western Kentucky on Thursday – a game in which they fell behind by 14 points in the first half – it marked the 12th consecutive game in which they have trailed by double digits. The 49ers, who play Saturday at Marshall (4-11, 0-2), also haven’t led at halftime over that span.
Over the course of its current four-game losing streak, Charlotte has rallied each time, only to come up short at the end. In each game, Charlotte’s reserves – freshman guards Torin Dorn and Keyshawn Woods – have usually been the catalysts of the comebacks.
Charlotte’s starting lineup of center Mike Thorne, power forward Willie Clayton, small forward Terrence Williams, shooting guard Braxton Ogbueze and point guard Pierria Henry has stayed intact for all 14 games.
When outcomes continue such as Thursday’s – in which the 49ers‘ bench outscored the Hilltoppers’ 32-3 and nearly matched the total of Charlotte’s starters – is a lineup change at hand, or does it make sense?
49ers interim coach Ryan Odom elected not to make a change against Western Kentucky, his first game at the helm after head coach Alan Major began an indefinite medical leave of absence earlier this week.
“That’s something I’ll go back and talk about with the other coaches and (Major),” Odom said Thursday.
Inserting Dorn into the starting lineup would appear to be the most obvious move. He had career highs in points (26) and rebounds (10) against Western Kentucky and now leads Charlotte in scoring (12.4 per game). Woods is second in Conference USA in 3-point shooting (49.0 percent).
But would Dorn or Woods be more effective as starters, or are they more valuable as reserves? They both play starter’s minutes (Dorn, 27.3 per game; Woods, 24.9).
“Torin is definitely playing well,” Odom said. “But he’s very good off the bench. He gives us a good punch. He’s going to play a lot of minutes, whether he’s starting or off the bench.”
Either way is fine for Dorn.
“I don’t look too much into who starts,” he said. “I’ll let the coaches figure that out. That’s not my call.”
• Conference play began this week with an 18-game schedule for the first time in C-USA history. The conference tournament, which featured all eligible teams last season in El Paso, Texas, will return to a 12-team format this season in Birmingham, Ala.
• No. 25 Old Dominion’s 13-1 start is its best since the school moved into Division I in 1976. The Monarchs (2-0 C-USA) have a tough task Saturday at Western Kentucky (9-5, 2-0).
• Early indications are that Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion might be the class of the league. The Bulldogs and Monarchs play each other once, Feb. 21 in Norfolk, Va.
• UTEP’s Vince Hunter is averaging a double-double (16.4 points, 10.3 rebounds). He has 10 for the season.
Wildcats tough at home
Davidson found out about life on the road in the Atlantic 10 on Wednesday, falling to No. 20 Virginia Commonwealth 71-65. Now the Wildcats (10-3, 1-1) return home to face Saint Louis (8-7, 0-2) in Belk Arena, a place where the Wildcats haven’t lost in 13 games stretching over two seasons. The last time Davidson lost at Belk was Jan. 6, 2013, against Elon.
The Wildcats will hope to improve in a few areas that cost them against VCU and its “havoc” style of play. Davidson turned over the ball 15 times and shot 37.3 percent from the field. The Wildcats were 10-of-28 from 3-point range but just 12-of-31 from inside the arc.
Around the A-10
• Langston Galloway, who scored 19 points Thursday in his New York Knicks debut, is a former Saint Joseph’s standout who is the Hawks’ all-time leader in 3-point field goals.
• Atlantic 10 teams are high in this week’s RPI – VCU is fifth, Dayton 19th and George Washington 25th. As a league, the A-10 is seventh.
• Davidson’s Bob McKillop is the league’s winningest active coach with 482 career victories. La Salle’s John Gianinni, George Washington’s Mike Lonergan and Saint Louis’ Jim Crews all have 400-plus victories but at more than one school. McKillop’s have all come at Davidson.