It may be 25°F here in Charlotte, but fortunately the Charlotte 49ers women's basketball team is heading to St. Louis tomorrow for an Atlantic-10 match up against the Saint Louis Billikens. Charlotte (13-4, 2-1 A-10) comes into this game off a home win against Xavier. Despite their sub-.500 record, Saint Louis (8-11, 2-2 A-10) has shown the potential to stop a team like Charlotte if the 49ers play like they did in the second half against Fordham or the first half against Rhode Island.
The Billikens are coming off a come-from-behind win against Richmond in which they trailed 38-29 before outscoring the Spiders, 23-11, over the final 9:18 for a 52-49 victory. Charlotte has been able to play lock-down defense at times this season -- just ask Davidson after the 49ers kept the Wildcats scoreless from the field for over 10 minutes during their meeting on Dec. 21 -- but has also seen defensive lapses.
Not quite sure what Sunday's game between the 49ers and Billikens will bring, but Charlotte should escape the Gateway City with a victory if Jenn Hailey and Amanda Dowe -- two of the A-10's top rebounders -- can control the interior. Saint Louis has enjoyed a rebounding advantage in 12 of their 19 games, and if they make it 13 of 20, then something will have gone terribly wrong for Charlotte. The 49ers also need Hillary Sigmon to rediscover her magic touch from beyond the arc after hitting just 2-of-14 over the last two games (she is shooting 34.4% on 3-pointers after hitting a school record 48.3% during her freshman campaign last season).
Meanwhile fellow sophomore Ayanna Holmes is coming off a season-high 11 points in 17 minutes against Xavier. She had gone through a shooting slump of her own from late December to early January, but if she can factor into the 49ers offense, it makes Charlotte a very difficult team to defend. If shooters are hitting their shots, they have to be covered tightly, and if that happens, the ball will move inside to Hailey and Dowe while should be able to win their 1-on-1 match ups in the post. Many teams have one big post players that may be able to go head to head with either of them, but very few teams have two, which gives Charlotte the potential to be dynamic.
I look forward to being on the call this weekend in Saint Louis. You can listen to the radio broadcast online on Sunday, 2pm (ET), at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/charlotte.portal?CONTENT_ID=330946&DB_OEM_ID=23200&mode=link#.