The Charlotte 49ers claimed a 51-44 victory in their opening Conference USA matchup against UAB.
“To be 1-0 in conference play as we try to grow our program is seriously important for us,” Charlotte Head Coach Ron Sanchez said. “I know it’s only one game, but it does matter a lot.”
Charlotte entered their first conference matchup of the season without their leading scorer Jordan Shepherd, who was sidelined due to a hamstring injury. Sanchez inserted sophomore guard Cooper Robb, who normally plays a key sixth man role, into the starting lineup in place of Shepherd. Robb delivered a 10-point performance in place of the injured Shepherd during his first start of the season.
Robb’s backcourt mate Jahmir Young, who struggled to score in the 49ers’ last matchup against East Carolina, helped fill Shepherd’s scoring void by shooting 61.5 percent from the field for 18 points. Young also contributed two blocks and two steals.
“[Not having Shepherd] was definitely not part of the plan,” said Sanchez. “So I challenged Jahmir to grow up a little. Look at his stat line, you can see he had a phenomenal game.”
Charlotte’s defense stifled the Blazers, who averaged 64.6 points per game heading into their matchup against the 49ers by holding them to 44 points. The 49ers’ defense also forced 18 Blazers turnovers, scoring 19 points off of them.
“We knew we weren’t going to get many easy baskets today,” Sanchez said. “But we defended well. [Allowing] 22 points in the first half and 22 points in the second half; I’ll take that any time, any day against anybody.”
The rest of the 49ers’ starting five, including Drew Edwards, Malik Martin and Amidou Bamba, made significant contributions by scoring nine, eight and four points, respectively.
The offensive contribution of the 49ers’ starting five was crucial as they scored 49 of Charlotte’s 51 points. Sanchez didn’t look to his bench much against the Blazers as Luka Vasic, Milos Supica and Tyler Bertram only saw eleven minutes of action.
After opening conference play with a win, Charlotte will move on to their next matchup against Old Dominion.
“We’ll take one game at a time,” Sanchez said. “Now we’ll start focussing on our next opponent and see what happens.”
The 49ers play host to Old Dominion on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m