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Southland Preview

December 27, 2001 Conference Notes No Comments



2001-02 Southland Conference Preview

by David Mosse


With the defending champions McNeese State suffering a couple of
key losses, this league should be Texas-San Antonio’s to win. The Roadrunners
sport virtually the same roster that finished tied for second last season.
With four senior starters including high-scoring guard Devin Brown and
rebounding machine McEverett Powers, the Roadrunners will be tough to beat.
Their stiffest challenge should come from the Cowboys, who still posses one
of the premier players in the league in Jason Coleman, and a high scoring
Stephen F. Austin squad poised for a major turn around from last season’s
10th place finish. This league should be marked by high scoring, fast paced
basketball and an exciting conference tournament to determine which team
makes the field of 64.

1. Texas-San Antonio: The Roadrunners are living up to their preseason billing
as the Southland Conference favorite. USTA already won the Pizza Hut Classic
at Southwest Missouri, defeating Idaho State 81-72 and host Southwest
Missouri 72-71 in overtime in the final, and they have raced to a 2-0 start
in conference play. The Roadrunners posses the most experienced team in the
conference with four senior starters. The key man has been senior guard Devin
Brown, who leads the Southland in scoring at 21.8 points a game. McEverett
Powers has complemented Brown’s outside attack, averaging 18 points and 7.8
rebounds.

2. McNeese State: The defending champion Cowboys got off to a miserable start
this season but have bounced back strong by winning three in a row, including
their first road victory of the season at Jackson State. The Cowboys shooting
has yet to come around as evidenced by their lowly 36 percent shooting as a
team. However, they have found ways to manufacture points. Junior guard
Jason Coleman is averaging 19 points a game and senior forwards Ben Perkins
and Fred Gentry are scoring more than 10 points a game. The Cowboys must
shoot better and improve upon their 10 assists a game average if they are to
repeat as conference champions.

3. Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks will rely on three pronged attack. Junior
forward Percy Green, the Southland player of the week last week, is averaging
a team-high 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. The Lumberjacks have
consistently gotten him involved in their offense, and he’s hitting 56.4 percent
from the field. Junior guard Ben Hunt is scoring 11 points a game, but more
importantly, shooting 51 percent. Junior guard Skip Jackson is scoring nine points a
game, but he was most influential in the Lumberjacks’ league win over
Southwest Texas with a team-high 21 points. The three will have to continue
their strong play if the Lumberjacks are to compete with the powerhouses of
the league.

4. Texas-Arlington: The Mavericks have done their best to outscore teams thus
far, but must improve a defense that is surrendering 97 points per game. The
star of the show has been senior guard Steve Barber, whose 38 points against
Wichita State were the most by a Southland player this season, and the fifth
most in school history. He accomplished the feat in 29 minutes of play. He
also led the Mavericks with 25 points in the victory at Bradley, and his six
three-pointers were the key. Barber, an early favorite for
conference player of the year, is unlikely to maintain this pace, further highlighting the need for an improvement on the defensive side of the
floor.

5. Lamar: The Cardinals are hoping to benefit from a challenging non-conference
schedule, having recently competed in the Michigan State classic. Junior
forward Damany Hendrix has starred thus far, averaging 19 points a game
including 23 in an 80-71 loss to Michigan State. He also had 10 rebounds and
hit 9 of 9 from the free throw line. Hendrix, a candidate for conference player
of the year, will be the key if the Cardinals are to make a run at the
conference title. Another key will be continuing to protect the ball, as the
Cardinals are committing just 12.8 turnovers a game. Freshman Ben Jacobsen
has made the biggest impact among Lamar’s four freshmen, averaging nine
points in just 20 minutes of play per game.

6. Sam Houston State: The Bearkats feature the most balanced attack in the
league with four players averaging in double figures, led by junior forward
Donald Cole, averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s the only
player in the Southland averaging a double-double this season. Junior guard Robert
Shannon averages 10 points a game and ranks first in the league with 7
assists per contest. The Bearkats weapons must continue to fire on all cylinders
if they are to make up for a leaky defense that has struggled in defending
the three point shot.

7. Nicholls State: The Colonels are hoping what they lack in experience they can
make up for in energy. Freshman guard Ronnie Price has been a catalyst for
the Colonels, averaging a team-best 13.6 points a game. He also ranks third
in the Southland in assists (3.6) and 15th in steals (1.6) If the Colonels
are to be any sort of factor in the Southland race they must improve upon
their rebounding which has thus far been putrid. The Colonels are being
outrebounded by a margin of 14.5 per game. They also must improve upon their 60 points scored per game average.

8. Louisiana-Monroe: The Indians will lean heavily on their experience, as well
as arguably the best backcourt in the league. Senior guards Nick Colin and
Reggie Griffin are averaging 16.5 and 14.5 points per game, respectively. The
Indians had won three straight, including a 94-90 victory at TCU, before
losing 78-43 at Ole Miss, but they still have high hopes for the conference
season. Behind an up-tempo offense and strong perimeter shooting they could
go a long way.

9. Southwest Texas State: The Bobcats lead the Southland in scoring at 82.3 points per game, but already have dug themselves a hole with league losses to McNeese
State and Stephen F. Austin. The problem has been a shaky defense that has
been unable to stop anyone. A bright spot has been the play of senior guard
Clay Click who leads a balanced scoring attack with 15.7 points a game.
Junior guards Marcus Johnson and David Sykes are scoring 13 points a game.
Six other players are averaging at least six points a game for a Bobcats team
that has been effective from three point range effectively shooting 41
percent.

10. Northwestern State: The Demons hope their frenetic high-flying style will
take them to the top, as they are averaging over 75 points a game. The Demons
must take care of the ball better as they are also averaging over 21
turnovers a game. The Deamons will also need continued strong play from
sophomore center D’or Fisher who had 22 points, 15 rebounds a school-record
12 blocks in the Deamons last game. Fisher should form a strong inside-out
combination with senior guard Michael Byars-Dawson who is averaging 17.5
points a game and hitting 40 percent of his three-pointers.

11. Southeastern Louisiana: Not much has gone right for the Lions who have lost
four straight since defeating Louisiana College in their season opener. The
problem has been an inept offense that is currently averaging a
Southland-worst 58 points per game. Sophomore guard Amir Abdul-Rahim has been
the bright spot offensively leading the team at 12.8 points per contest. Senior
forward Donald Caesar is second in the Southland in rebounding at 9.2 a night.

Player of the Year: Devin Brown, Texas-San Antonio

Coach of the Year: Danny Kaspar, Stephen F. Austin

Newcomer of the Year: Ben Jacobsen, Lamar

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