College Basketball

Charlotte 49ers basketball team working at finishing strong

Charlotte interim coach Ryan Odom says the Charlotte 49ers have been “attacking” the late-game problems that have helped produce seven losses in their past nine games.

Charlotte (8-11, 2-5), which plays a Conference USA game against Florida Atlantic (8-8, 1-4) Thursday at Halton Arena, has seen second-half leads vanish in four of their five conference losses. All of Charlotte’s league defeats have been by single digits with two coming in overtime.

“We know we haven’t lost the ability to win games in this conference,” said Odom. “We’re confident we can do that. We just have to work on the weaknesses that have caused problems. We’re attacking each problem.”

Odom didn’t hesitate in pointing out what he considers are key areas for the 49ers to work on in late-game situations.

“It’s getting the right shot,” said Odom, who is replacing Alan Major while he takes an indefinite medical leave of absence. “It’s taking care of the basketball. It’s getting to the free-throw line, especially in the second half. Then making sure you’re making your free throws when you get there. It’s about getting the right guys there.

“Defensively, you’ve got to be guarding the ball. Making sure the other team is having contested shots and you’re limiting their ability to get to the line late in games. And rebounding: when they miss, you’ve got to rebound the ball so they’re not getting extra, key shots.”

It has been any number of those issues that have hurt Charlotte over this stretch.

The 49ers led Western Kentucky 49-42, but saw the lead evaporate quickly when the Hilltoppers hit consecutive 3-pointers on their next two possessions and eventually won 74-66.

The 49ers were up on Rice 59-53 with three minutes, 22 seconds left, but didn’t score again in regulation. The Owls prevailed 73-68 in overtime.

The 49ers seemed to have all the momentum when they took a seven-point lead in the second half against Alabama-Birmingham. Three consecutive 3-pointers by Terrence Williams and Torin Dorn gave Charlotte a 59-52 lead with 6:37 left in regulation, but Williams was called for charging on Charlotte’s next possession. The next time the 49ers had the ball, power forward Willie Clayton had his shot blocked twice in a row. UAB went on to win 81-76 in overtime.

In a 72-69 loss against Middle Tennessee on Saturday, the Blue Raiders made 19 of 24 free throws in the second half, helping them overcome a nine-point 49ers lead. The 49ers also didn’t adjust well to a trap the Blue Raiders threw at point guard Pierriá Henry, who had three turnovers and a missed free throw in the final two minutes.

“A lot of it comes down to our daily principles and what you teach your team,” said Odom. “You have to stick to that in the game. When we lose close games, it shows we have it in us. We just have to show on game night that we’re capable of finishing. I’m confident our guys will do that.”

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