Men's basketball faces tough road test in UNC-Charlotte

Men’s basketball mightnot encounter a tougher matchup against a mid-major this season than Charlotte at 2 p.m. Saturday at Halton Arena.

The 49ers are the only mid-major team on Central Michigan’s remaining schedule that is still undefeated.

The weaknesses the Chippewas have also do not bode well against the strengths of UNC-Charlotte.

“Obviously, their size, their strength, their defensive ability in there is something that we’re going to have our hands full to go against us,” head coach Keno Davis said. “But it should also help us in the future as we get into MAC play.”

The 49ers are seventh in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and 55th in rebound margin in the NCAA’s weekly team rankings.

CMU is ranked 312th in field-goal percentage offensively and 224nd in rebound margin.

While Davis said he is into statistics and hopes to improve in those areas, he said it is a small sample size and is satisfied that the Chippewas have found ways to win, despite what the stats show.

“I look at it as a big positive that we’re not as high up as we would like, yet we found ways to win games,” Davis said. “Now if we can improve our percentages both offensively and defensively rebounding, then we’ll be that much better of a ball club.”

CMU is 3-0 in games decided by less than five points.

Charlotte's best win was against East Carolina.  They dealt the Pirates their first and only defeat of the season, 76-64 on Saturday.

The 8-0 49ers are one of 18 undefeated teams in the nation.

Davis said he has found things seven games into the season that the team can rely on against opponents.

He still likes the depth of his team and expects some of his players to have breakout games in the future. He also continues to love their worth ethic.

“We got a group that, throughout 40 minutes, is going to work extremely hard,” Davis said. “I don’t think there’s much drop off when we go to our starters to our bench.”

As of Tuesday, senior center Zach Saylor had not participated in practice.  Davis said he still did not have time set for his return.

Senior Olivier Mbaigoto filled Saylor’s role in the last game against Niagara, making his first start of the season, logging about nine more minutes than his season average.

“It’s been hard for me,” Mbaigoto said. “I have had to adjust my game during practice and learn how to post up.”

Saylor had one important piece of advice for Mbaigoto during practice: Play vicious.

Mbaigoto said Saylor told him he needed to be “vicious,” feel the defender and make post moves confidently.