Thoughts From Charlotte's Coach
Last night, I spoke briefly over the phone with Charlotte Coach Bobby Lutz about his team and its match-up Saturday against Maryland in College Park. While Lutz was realistic in his evaluation of his team's chances for victory against the Terps, he drew some measure of confidence that his team at least is capable of keeping the score close.
"We know we're the decided underdog, and we should be," Lutz said. "But we played Clemson to a one-point game and missed eight foul shots in the last four minutes. So we feel like we've exposed ourselves to really good teams. I think those things, coupled with last year's game, at least lets us know that if we play very well, we can put ourselves in the position to win the game."
Charlotte has been a streaky team so far this season. They lost six in a row in November before winning four straight since then. The 49ers' shooting numbers are low and their turnover numbers are high, but Lutz attributed that to the team's poor start to the season.
"We've played the last four games like the way we thought we were capable of at the beginning of the year," Lutz said. "I've been coaching a while, and I've never been through a stretch where we've lost lost every close game like we did at the beginning of the year. I like the way we've been playing, and if we were healthy I'd be even more excited. I've liked the way we've been playing when we've got all our guys available. We've gotten a lot more consistent and we value the ball a lot better and excute it better and as a result we've shot the ball better and we've been able to win the games."
Lutz confirmed that sophomore forward An'Juan Wilderness (6-foot-6, 215) will miss today's game with a stress fracture in his left foot. Wilderness was averaging 10.4 points per game before suffering the injury. Lutz also said junior center Phil Jones (6-foot-10, 260 lbs.) is doubtful for today's game after suffering an undisclosed injury during practice late in the week. Jones, a reserve, leads the team with 23 blocks. He shoots 55.9 percent from the field and averages 8.5 points per game.
Even without Wilderness and Jones, the 49ers still offer five players who are scoring 8.0 or more points per game. That kind of balanced attack isn't Lutz's trademark or preferred style of play, but it is the system Lutz believes best fits the makeup of his current roster.
"My best teams in years past have been when we have two or three guys who were our main scorers, but this team is just a different kind of team, and we knew it was going to be," Lutz said. "We didn't have a guy who could put up big numbers. We felt like we would have, hopefully, three or four guys in double figures and three, four or five more guys that would be 8,9 as well. With the kids that we've got, that's the best way for us to play. In some ways it's good cause (opponents) don't just have one guy to shut down. We have different guys that can lead us in scoring on different nights. I kind of like that versatility of not being predictable."
Lutz said he knows what to expect from the Terps -- that his 5-foot-9 point guard will be challenged by Maryland's press, that his team's lack of depth due to injuries could become a significant factor as Maryland's intense defense wears on his players, that the 49ers will give up some size in the post -- yet he remained resolute.
"Our guys have tremendous respect for Maryland," Lutz said, "but we wouldn't schedule the game if we didn't think we had a chance."
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