GAME NOTES: The Charlotte 49ers and Rice Owls will square off for the first time ever when they tip it off in a Conference USA bout at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Charlotte is 3-2 in its return to Conference USA, where it called home from 1995-2005 until leaving for the Atlantic 10. However, the 49ers are looking to rebound from Thursday's 80-60 setback at Louisiana Tech, which snapped a brief two-game win streak.
Rice remains winless in conference play and has not tasted victory since the middle of December. The Owls suffered their eighth consecutive loss on Thursday as they fell at home to Marshall, 73-63.
Charlotte jumped out to a 14-6 lead against Louisiana Tech but was unable to sustain that pace as it went on to shoot just 41.1 percent for the game in addition to committing 24 turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 26 points off those turnovers and put the game out of reach in the second half. Pierria Henry had a solid showing for the 49ers, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go along with five rebounds. Willie Clayton recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while reserve Shawn Lester also scored 10 in the loss. Five players are averaging double figures this season for the 49ers, who like to get up and down the floor and are putting up 75.3 ppg. Pierria leads the way with 12.6 ppg.
Rice is led by sharpshooter Austin Ramljak (12.4 ppg), who has already knocked down 60 3-pointers this season at a 41-percent success rate. Down low, freshman Sean Obi is shooting a healthy 61 percent from the floor while averaging 11.8 points and a league-best 9.6 rebounds per tilt. Obi converted 11-of-13 field-goal attempts on Thursday night as he scored 22 points and pulled down 17 rebounds for his seventh double-double. The Owls trailed Marshall by 11 at the half and cut the deficit to three a few times in the second half, but they were unable to finish the job. Max Guercy had 11 points and fellow guard Marcus Jackson scored 10 in his return to the starting lineup. However, Rice shot just 5-of-25 from beyond the arc and made only 8- of-14 free throws.
The 49ers are coming off a mistake-filled, all-around ugly performance their last time out. Expect a renewed focus tonight as they try to get back into the win column.
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