College Basketball

After preseason concussion, forward Bernard Sullivan finally joins 49ers’ lineup

The Charlotte 49ers received a bit of good news in what has been a dreary season on Thursday when junior forward Bernard Sullivan suited up against Florida Atlantic.

It was the first action this season for Sullivan, who had been out after sustaining a concussion in the preseason. He made the most of the six minutes he played at the end of Charlotte’s 86-61 victory at Halton Arena, scoring four points on 2-for-2 shooting in six minutes.

The issue of playing Sullivan was complicated for the 49ers. A 6-foot-8 transfer from Clemson who played at Davidson Day and North Mecklenburg, Sullivan had already redshirted one season (2013-14) at Charlotte and was considered an important part of this season’s front line.

But the preseason concussion – the fourth he’s suffered since high school – kept him out of action for weeks. He returned to practice in early January.

As the season progressed and Sullivan’s health improved, Charlotte interim coach Ryan Odom had to weigh the benefits of bringing Sullivan back against the possibility of keeping him out for the entire season. If Sullivan missed the season, there was a chance he could have received a medical waiver from the NCAA to get a sixth year to finish his four seasons of eligibility.

Odom said predicting how the NCAA will rule in medical cases is difficult.

“Bernard has no ego, so he decided to play and try to help the team,” said Odom, whose team plays a Conference USA game against Florida International on Saturday at Halton Arena. “That’s his mentality. He realizes it’s late in the season, but he wants to help out. He also knew it would be a roll of the dice with the NCAA on the waiver.”

Odom’s hope is that Sullivan, who has been on the 49ers’ “scout” team in practice for the past two weeks, can provide much-needed depth on Charlotte’s front line behind center Mike Thorne and power forward Willie Clayton.

Around C-USA

• Preseason favorite Louisiana Tech moved into sole possession of first place with a 69-56 victory against Western Kentucky on Thursday. It was the Bulldogs’ 23rd consecutive home win.

• Old Dominion also extended its win streak to 15 games in a 71-56 win against FIU.

• The league’s most-improved team is probably Texas-San Antonio (10-9, 4-4), which plays a home game against Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday. The Roadrunners’ Jeromie Hill, a 6-8 forward from Cairns, Australia, averages 16.8 points and 7.4 rebounds, both among the league’s best.

McKillop still learning

Davidson coach Bob McKillop’s pregame routine usually has him sequestered in the locker room. But with about 20 minutes before tip-off of last Saturday’s Atlantic 10 game at George Mason, McKillop found himself wandering the halls of the Patriot Center. He peaked into the media work room, where a television was showing the end of a close Miami-Syracuse game.

McKillop was interested in seeing how two of his good friends in coaching – Miami’s Jim Larranaga and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim – handled the end-game situation. The Hurricanes led 66-62 with 19.9 seconds left before the Orange’s Trevor Cooney hit a 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds remaining. After Miami’s Angel Rodriguez hit two free throws to make it 66-62, the Hurricanes allowed Cooney to take a long 3-pointer – rather than foul him – that he would miss.

“Just wanted to see how Jim and Jim worked that,” McKillop said.

A few hours later, the Wildcats were in a similar situation. With George Mason leading 65-62 with 12 seconds left, the Patriots’ Jalen Jennings missed two free throws. Davidson’s Brian Sullivan hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded and the Wildcats went on to win 80-73 in overtime.

The outcome might have been different had George Mason fouled Sullivan before he shot. McKillop said he would never second-guess or question Patriots coach Paul Hewitt, but McKillop at least had that kind of scenario in mind, thanks in part to some pregame video work he had done.

Around the A-10

• Davidson is part of a four-team group with two conference losses, all of whom trail first-place and No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth (17-3, 7-0). The Wildcats (14-4, 5-2), who play at Saint Joseph’s (8-11, 2-5) Saturday, are tied in the loss column with Dayton (16-4, 6-2), George Washington (16-5, 6-2) and Rhode Island (14-5, 6-2).

• Some of that will be sorted out Saturday, when George Washington plays at Rhode Island. Dayton has struggled after winning its first five league games, falling at Davidson and Massachusetts.

• St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt can grab win No. 200 Saturday against La Salle. Schmidt is 199-207 in 14 seasons as coach at Robert Morris and St. Bonaventure and 117-117 with the Bonnies.