The Charlotte 49ers get a key piece of their lineup back when junior shooting guard Andrien White returns Thursday against UAB after missing three games with a thumb injury.
“He looks fantastic,” 49ers interim coach Houston Fancher said of White, who averages 14.3 points and leads the team with 5.1 rebounds per game. “He’s hit the ground running for us. We need one more scoring option and he fills that for us.”
White injured his thumb in a 73-63 loss against Western Kentucky, and has missed games against Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Old Dominion as Charlotte (5-14, 1-7 Conference USA) has seen a losing streak grow to six games. UAB is 14-8, 5-4 in CUSA.
The streak has dropped the 49ers to last place in 14-team C-USA. Twelve teams qualify for the conference tournament, scheduled for March 7-10 in Frisco, Texas.
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“You’re going to challenge my credibility here, but we haven’t talked about (missing the tournament) one time,” Fancher said. “That’s too big a piece of pie for us to bite off right now. All we talk about is today’s practice and to keep that bite being as small as it can be. We’re keeping our sights right in front of us. If we look too much down the road, we’ll get hit by the next oncoming train.”
What Fancher wants to see how his team reacts to an 88-66 loss Saturday against Old Dominion, in which the 49ers were outrebounded 38-19 and outscored 38-14 in the paint. The 49ers had more turnovers (14) than assists (13) against the Monarchs, who also outscored Charlotte 26-3 on second-chance points.
“We tested our toughness quotient last week and we failed,” said Fancher, who said White’s return will help along those lines. “We’re challenging them in practice, challenging them by incorporating some drills forcing them to be tough, rebounding, taking charges, getting on the floor for loose balls.
“And we show themselves on film. That brings out the inner-competitor in them.”
▪ The 49ers will honor the 30th anniversary of their 1988 Sun Belt championship Saturday during their game at Halton Arena against Middle Tennessee. Led by Sun Belt player-of-the-year Byron Dinkins, the ’88 team won 22 games as Charlotte returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 49ers made the Final Four in 1977. Former coach Jeff Mullins is expected to be there Saturday.
David Scott: @davidscott14