February 4, 2023

HOUSTON– The Charlotte 49ers (13-7, 4-5 C-USA) basketball team ends its three-game road trip with a game at Rice (14-5, 5-3 C-USA) Thursday night (14-26). Tip is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and can be seen live on ESPN+.

Fans can watch Thursday’s Conference USA matchup on ESPN + HERE or on ESPN 730 The Game to hear Matt Swierad and CLT alum Trevor Wilt call the action HERE, or catch live stats HERE.

LAYUP LINES

– Thursday’s matchup marks the 16th all-time meeting between Charlotte and Rice, a streak that began just eight years ago in 2014.
– The 49ers finish a three-game road swing with stops in Middle Tennessee, WKU and Rice. Charlotte didn’t start the road trip properly, losing 62-58 to the Blue Raiders on Thursday night before rebounding with a 75-71 win at WKU on Saturday.
– After the road trip, the Niners return home next week to house the two Florida schools – FIU on Thursday and Florida Atlantic on Saturday – to avenge losses to both from earlier in the season.
– A win on Thursday would be Charlotte’s fourth true road win of the season and sixth overall win outside of Halton Arena. The Niners finished last season with a total of six wins away, which was the most on the program since six wins in 2015-16.
– The 49ers go into Thursday’s game with an all-time 895 wins as a program and only need five wins and 18 overall in 2022-23 to equal the program’s historic 900th win. The Niners could accomplish the feat at the earliest on February 11 against North Texas in Denton.

THE OWLS EXPLORE

– Rice had the weekend off, most recently on Thursday with an upset in North Texas, 72-60. The Owls are 14-5 on the season and 5-3 in C-USA action, but only 11 of their 14 wins have come against Division I opponents.
– Rice is led by Quincy Olivari’s 19.2 points per game, third-highest in the league. Two other owls average double digits in Travis Evee (16.3) and Max Fiedler (11.3). As a team, Rice averages 81.5 PPG, the 20th best offense in the country and second best in C-USA. Fiedler was named Monday’s C-USA Player of the Week after scoring the second triple-double in Rice history with a win over UTSA.
– The Owls are led by sixth-year head coach Scott Pera, who is coming off his best season and leading the roster with a 16-win season in 2021-22.

SERIES HISTORY

– Thursday’s competition will be the 16th all-time meeting between the C-USA programs and the ninth-ever tilt at the Tudor Fieldhouse. Charlotte had more success in Houston than in Halton, with a 4-4 record against the Owls on the road and a 1-4 mark at home.
– This is the fifth consecutive meeting between the two sides in the state of Texas. The teams played during the C-USA tournament in Frisco a year ago, and the last three regular season meetings before that were all in Space City.
– The recent encounter between the two teams marked the end of Charlotte’s season as the Owls defeated the Green and White 73-61 in the second round of the Conference USA Tournament.

CHARLOTTE TOPS WKU, 75-71

– Charlotte succumbed to a quadruple losing streak from home on Saturday when she defeated WKU 75-71 at Diddle Arena.
– The Niners had a takeover in each half Al Khalifa scored 18 of his career-high 22 points in the first half and Brice Williams Add 20 of his best 27 in the last 20 minutes. Jackson Threadgill joined the duo in double digits with 10 points in the contest.
– Not only did Williams and Khalifa lead the team in points, they also shared the lead on the glass with seven rebounds each. Eight of the nine Niners in action Saturday fell with at least one board.

VIEW OF THE LEAGUE STAND

– Outside of league leaders Florida Atlantic, every team has at least three losses in Conference USA.
– Charlotte is currently in a four-way tie for the fifth and final bye in the first round at 4-5 in C-USA games but trails UTEP and UAB in the tiebreaks.
– Rice currently sits a game and a half above the pack of four teams stuck 4-5 but has one game in hand against everyone in the conference and two against North Texas and UTSA.
– Charlotte’s four league wins have combined 39 points, while her four conference losses have combined 20 points, with all five in single digits and a pair just two points.
— Last season league favorites UAB fell at home to North Texas on Thursday, lowering their league record to 4-5 with losses in five of the Blazers’ last six games.

STAY MEAN

– The Charlotte 49ers remains second in scoring defense in Conference USA and is yielding just 61.4 points per game in 20 competitions this season, which ranks them 19th in the country.
– In CLT’s 11 non-conference tilts, the 49ers gave up just 58.1 points per contest, holding four teams under 50 points and five teams under 60 during non-league action.
-While the Niners are in the middle of the pack on defensive field goal and 3-point field goal percentage, Charlotte is finding incredible hits on the defensive glass, ranks second in defensive rebound percentage and staggers on a miss an opponent into the board, 76.8 percent of the time.

THE BRICE IS RIGHT

Brice Williams put on a 20-point show in the second half against WKU for his third game of 25+ this season and his 12th game in double figures.
– He remains CLT’s top scorer with 12.3 points per game despite not starting a single competition this season. Williams has risen in conference competition and sits seventh in the league averaging 16.9 in C-USA games.
– Of his 27 points against the Hilltoppers, none was more important than two free throws, which he sunk with 12 seconds left on the clock to give the 49ers a four-point lead and end the game.

ALY IS ALY

– Charlotte’s Stud at the Second Study Center, Al Khalifa has continued his steady improvement throughout Conference USA action and ranks 14th in the league with 11.9 points per game in nine C-USA tilts and most recently posted a career-high 22 at WKU.
– The Egyptian-born Alexandria native has demonstrated his ability to score at all three levels during the conference, losing four three-pointers at UAB and going toe-to-toe with MTSU stud Deandre Dishman in the paint, showing his feel for the middle class took advantage of staying close to the FIU and dominating the glass and around the rim against FAU, UTSA, MTSU and WKU.
– Khalifa has scored at least six field goals in six of CLT’s nine C-USA games and hit a total of ten 3-point shots during the Niners’ run in conference action. On the glass, Khalifa also ranks eighth in the league, tearing down 7.0 boards per game, including 10 to help CLT return against FAU in Boca Raton two weeks ago. With seven at WKU on Saturday, Khalifa has lost at least seven in each of his last five games.
– Khalifa is also an effective distributor, sitting second on the roster this season averaging 3.2 assists per matchup.

A WIN WOULD…

– Give Charlotte a positive record when playing at Rice on the go.
– Set the Niners to .500 in the C-USA game.
– Revenge for last year’s loss to Rice at the C-USA tournament
– It’s the first time since 2011/12 that CLT have won consecutive real road games in one season.

Nine nuggets

– Junior Brice Williams was the first 49er to score back-to-back 30 points since Leemire Goldwire in 2008 when he did so against Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. Williams leads the Niners with 12.3 points per game.
– The Niners complete a three-game road trip, the longest streak of real road games this season. CLT was in Middle Tennessee on Thursday and WKU on Saturday before ending with Rice on Thursday.
– Opened in 1912 and founded after the death of the school’s namesake, William Marsh Rice, Rice University is a private, research-based institution in Houston, Texas with a focus on education. This educational focus is evident in the school’s small student body of fewer than 4,000 undergraduate students and its student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1.
– Rice has a close relationship with NASA dating back to the 1960s when he first acted as an intermediary in the transfer of land between the Humble Oil and Refining Company and NASA for the construction of what is now the Johnson Space Center. Rice’s soccer stadium was the scene of President John F. Kennedy’s famous “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech about the United States’ intention to reach the moon before the end of the decade.
– Despite the focus on academics, Rice has found success in baseball, where the Owls won the College World Series in 2003 and finished third in the 2006 and 2007 editions. The 2003 CWS title is the only national championship team fielded by Rice in school history that included six future MLB players.

NEXT

Charlotte has the weekend off before her home match against FIU next Thursday (February 2). Tipoff from Halton Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPN+.

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