Massachusetts (14-5) at Charlotte (16-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Halton Arena (9,105) -- Charlotte, North Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: UMass 7-2, Charlotte 10-1. Away Record: UMass 6-1, Charlotte 3-3. Neutral Record: UMass 1-2, Charlotte 3-0. Conference Record: UMass 4-2, Charlotte 4-2. Series Record: UMass leads, 6-5.
GAME NOTES: The Charlotte 49ers are set to tangle with the Massachusetts Minutemen in an Atlantic 10 Conference matchup at Halton Arena.
There is a logjam atop the A-10 standings at the moment, and these are two of seven teams that entered the weekend separated by just a half-game for first place.
UMass notched a 61-60 road win over La Salle Wednesday night thanks to Chaz Williams' driving layup with 8.0 seconds remaining. The Minutemen have won four of their last five games and 11 of 13 overall. They have fared well in unfriendly confines, having posted a 6-1 mark in true road games.
Meanwhile, Charlotte has lost two of its last three games, including last Saturday's 82-54 rout at the hands of George Washington. Now, the 49ers face the difficult task of moving ahead without their leading scorer, as the school announced on Wednesday that DeMario Mayfield (11.7 ppg) has been suspended indefinitely for violating team policy. Still, the 49ers are 10-1 at home this season.
UMass has won each of the last three meetings with Charlotte to take a 6-5 lead in the head-to-head series.
The Minutemen's victory over La Salle marked the ninth time this season they won a game decided by five points or less. While it was Williams who came through at the end with the game-winning bucket, Raphiael Putney shot 7-of-11 from the floor and finished with a game-high 17 points. UMass used an 11-0 run late in the first half to go up by 12, its largest lead of the game. But the team's 37.9-percent shooting effort in the second stanza opened the door for La Salle to hang around. Minutemen reserve Cady Lalanne, the A-10 leader in offensive rebounds per game, provided a spark with nine points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench, and that included six offensive boards. UMass grabbed 14 offensive boards as a team and converted those opportunities into a key 15-6 advantage in second-chance points. On the season, Williams leads the team with 15.8 ppg. Second-leading scorer Jesse Morgan (13.4 ppg) was lost for the season with a torn right knee ligament that he suffered against Saint Louis on Jan. 10.
There is no question the loss of Mayfield will present a big challenge for Charlotte, tonight and for the remainder of the 2012-13 campaign. Mayfield, who was promoted to the starting lineup last week against Xavier, has 14 double-figure scoring games on the season and 33 for his career. His loss will place more pressure on the shoulders of players like Chris Braswell (11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Willie Clayton (8.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg), who excel near the basket. As a team, the 49ers have outscored 15 of their 20 opponents inside the paint. However, that was not the case last Saturday as GW held a narrow scoring edge inside the paint in addition to a 40-27 rebounding advantage. Mayfield had 17 points and eight boards to pace Charlotte, but the 49ers shot a dismal 31.6 percent as a team, including a 3-of-18 effort from the perimeter. They also committed 17 turnovers.
The 49ers are off to their best start since the 1976-77 squad began that season 17-2 and eventually went on to the Final Four, but they face some adversity moving forward. Both teams are without a primary scoring option, although the Minutemen appear to have hardly missed a beat since Morgan went down.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 73, Charlotte 67
02/02 10:40:44 ET