Coach Mark Price’s second season leading the Charlotte 49ers has not yet reached the halfway point, but one thing is already clear: he wants his teams battle-tested entering Conference-USA play. In his first year at the helm, Price’s team finished non-conference play 3-9 after a brutal slate including Syracuse, Michigan and Miami. The experience paid off in league play, as Charlotte went 9-9 in C-USA after winning seven conference games apiece in ’13-14 and ’14-15. The 49ers (6-3), who lost to a Davidson team picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 in November, are halfway through a four-game stretch against major-conference opponents. Charlotte split the first two, defeating Oregon State and losing to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The next two games are trips to face Florida in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., and a clash with Maryland in Baltimore three days later. The Gators (7-3) and Terrapins (11-1) are currently unranked, but are among others receiving votes in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls.”They’re challenging games,” Price said following the 91-74 loss to Wake Forest. “They’re great opportunities to get a chance to play against good players and good teams. Ultimately, I think that’s what makes you better. We’ve got to keep our heads up.” The 49ers will have more than a week off between the Maryland game and the conference opener against North Texas on Dec. 31.Sophomore guard Jon Davis has emerged as his team’s top offensive threat after averaging 11.7 points per game and earning C-USA All-Freshman team honors a year ago. The sophomore guard is shooting 52.9 percent from 3-point land. His hot start from downtown has helped him average more than 20 points per game, and he also leads the team in free throw attempts and assists.Davis is among four 49ers averaging double-figure scoring, with redshirt senior guard Braxton Ogbueze, sophomore guard Andrien White and senior forward Anthony Vanhook providing balance. Charlotte will have another player in its rotation beginning with the Florida game, when Clemson transfer Austin Ajukwa is expected to make his debut. The 6-foot-7 redshirt junior played in 30 games for the Tigers in ’14-15. The Gators are looking to rebound after losing to No. 5 Duke at Madison Square Garden and on the road at No. 23 Florida State in their last two games. Florida’s top scorer is guard KeVaughn Allen, who is averaging 13.6 points per game. Allen scored 21 points in the Gators’ loss to the Blue Devils and 16 against FSU.
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