College Basketball

Basketball coach Mark Price: 49ers must get better finishing games

Charlotte center Joseph Uchebo averages 11.4 rebounds to rank ninth in the country. He averages 12.9 points to lead the 49ers in scoring.
Charlotte center Joseph Uchebo averages 11.4 rebounds to rank ninth in the country. He averages 12.9 points to lead the 49ers in scoring.

Charlotte 49ers’ basketball coach Mark Price said his team has learned a few lessons – and earned some respect – during the first three months of its 2015-16 schedule.

Now that the 49ers are heading into the final month of the season, Price said its time to put those lessons to good use.

“Having gone through the conference now, word’s spread quickly,” Price said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “Every coach I run into comments on how much we’ve improved and grown as a team.

“We’ve earned that respect, and now we’ve got to raise our level. We’re going to start getting people’s ‘A game’ when we show up because they know they’ve got to play well to beat us.”

Charlotte (8-15, 4-6 Conference USA) will play twice this week at Halton Arena, hosting Rice (8-15, 3-7) Thursday at 7 p.m., and North Texas (9-14, 4-6) Saturday at 4 p.m.

While the 49ers have lost their past two conference games, both went to the wire.

Charlotte lost at Florida Atlantic 82-77 on Jan. 30 after overcoming a 17-point deficit early in the second half, then fell at home in overtime to Old Dominion 74-69 last Saturday after rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit.

“We’re playing good basketball, night in and night out,” Price said. “We’re giving ourselves opportunities to win games, particularly against the better teams. Now it comes down to learning how to close.”

The 49ers are tied with North Texas and Southern Mississippi for eighth in the C-USA standings with eight games left before the conference tournament March 8-12 in Birmingham, Ala. Those three are a half game behind Texas-El Paso and Florida International, tied for sixth at 5-6.

“There’s a lot of teams that have one game, two games separating each other right now,” Price said. “A lot of these head-to-head matchups with teams that have similar records are important.

“Particularly right now, it’s important to try to close out and play well at home. It’s important to try and win your home games, then go on the road and try to steal one or two.”

49ers’ center improves scoring

Charlotte’s 6-foot-10 senior center Joseph Uchebo has emerged as one of the nation’s top rebounders but has also become an offensive force inside.

Uchebo, ninth in the nation in rebounding (11.4 per game), is Charlotte’s leading scorer at 12.9 points. He’s shooting a team-best 58.7 percent from the field, fourth-best in the conference.

His numbers are even better in C-USA games: He’s averaging 16.7 points (tied for eighth best) and a league-best 14.6 total rebounds and 5.0 offensive boards.

Scouting Rice, North Texas

▪ Rice has won two of its past three C-USA games after losing six of its first seven. The Owls are led by freshman guard Marcus Evans and sophomore guard Egor Koulechov, who are third and sixth, respectively, in scoring at 19.7 and 17.0 points per game.

▪ North Texas has won its past two games (heading into its C-USA game at Old Dominion on Thursday) after losing five straight. The Mean Green is led by 6-7 sophomore forward Jeremy Combs, who averages 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds, second in the conference to Uchebo.