Charlotte 49ers expected to sellout Halton Arena for the first time in over a decade, looking to win eighth straight game

By Hunter Bailey

February 2, 2024

Photo: Nell Redmond / AP

Halton Arena is expecting its first sellout crowd since the 2012-13 season this weekend as the Charlotte 49ers are turning over a new leaf under first-year head coach Aaron Fearne.

Riding a seven-game winning streak, the 49ers are hosting in-state foe East Carolina for the first time as intra-conference rivals. Students are camping out for Saturday afternoon’s nationally televised matchup (2 p.m. on ESPNU), dubbing the campgrounds as “Fearneville.” 

Center Dishon Jackson, one of four 49ers averaging double-digit points, had a message for the fans during his appearance on the Highway 49 Podcast.

“It definitely means a lot to see the fans coming to the game more, especially from when we played Maine (in the season opener) to now. Just how many more people are coming out to support, it definitely means a lot,” Jackson said. 

Following an offseason of uncertainty, losing their head coach Ron Sanchez in June along with their leading scorers and rebounders Brice Williams and Aly Khalifa to the transfer portal, Charlotte had to regroup fast. Especially joining the American Athletic Conference in just July of 2023. After an up-and-down start to the season, Fearne has Charlotte’s roster completely bought in, and a win on Saturday would mark the 49ers’ longest conference winning streak in program history.

“We just figured out how to win. Early in the season, we had our troubles because we didn’t really know how to win,” Jackson said. “Us coming together as a new group of guys and learning each other, and learning how to play for each other, has definitely contributed to the streak.”

Charlotte’s winning streak has seen four wire-to-wire victories, two 20-point comebacks, and a close victory over a Final Four team from a season ago, No. 17 Florida Atlantic.

The victory over the Owls was Charlotte’s first win over a ranked opponent in Halton since 2010, and that changed everything for Fearne’s group.

“Beating Florida Atlantic. That started this run, and that showed us that we can play with anybody,” Jackson said. “We went on a losing streak, and things were looking kind of shaky, but beating FAU to start our home stretch in the AAC– that was one of my favorite moments.”

The Pirates, led by guard RJ Felton and forward Brandon Johnson, enter Halton as losers of four of their last six. Looking to play spoiler, the Pirates (who have won the last two matchups against Charlotte) will need their best effort to upset the 49ers. For Charlotte, working the ball inside with Jackson could spell trouble for the Pirates, as frontcourt depth has been a concern for ECU head coach Michael Schwartz. Charlotte’s balanced offensive attack has seen five different leading scorers through 20 games, with Lu’Cye Patterson and Igor Milicic Jr. leading the charge at 14.3 and 13.1 points per game, respectively. 

A few tickets are still available for the game on Saturday (2 p.m.) at Halton Arena, and it’s expected to sell out. Fans are asked to wear all white, and the game will air live on ESPNU. 

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