Winthrop Connects on 4 in a Row
by Doug McKinney
When we last left off with Big South Conference basketball, we witnessed
Winthrop win a fourth consecutive BSC championship and earning a fourth
straight bid to the NCAA tournament. The Eagles also became the first school
in NCAA history to win a Conference tournament championship four years in a
row. With two Eagle players earning spots on the All-tournament team, the
Eagles finished last year with a 19-12 overall record and a 10-4 BSC record.
UNC Asheville made a lot of noise last year, but was upset by the No.7 seed High
Point in the first round of the Big South Tournament. HPU led by Rookie of
the Year, Joe Knight, (watch out for this guy) proved they were for real and
came out the next night of the tourney to knock off the 3-seed Radford. The
Highlanders lose more key players than any other Big South team because of
last year’s graduating class.
Big South Tournament
With the action starting on February 28, the No. 1 seed, Winthrop, had no problem
proving to BSC fans why they were highly regarded with a 66-59 win over #8 seed
Liberty to start things off at the Roanoke Civic Center. BSC player of the
year, Lewis, scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half to lead the
Eagles. The following game saw the 5 team, Elon, upset No. 4 Charleston
Southern with a lopsided 83-64 victory. The biggest upset of the tourney came
next as the 7-seed, thanks to Ron Barrow’s free throw with 1.3 seconds
remaining, sent the second-seeded UNC Asheville home with a first round loss. In
the night cap the Radford Highlanders took their No. 3 seed and coasted past
Coastal Carolina, the No. 6 seed, behind Correy Watkins 27 points, with 16 coming
in the second half.
So with the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds already gone, the semi-finals provided even more
exciting basketball than the first round. Winthrop used the 32 points they
scored from foul shots to advance to the BSC final game, defeating Elon, 77-
66. The win gave the Eagles their eighth consecutive BSC playoff win. The
later game saw the lead change a numerous times, but High Point came up top in
the end with a 72-70 upset victory over Radford. Jay Wallace and rookie of
the year Joe Knight, scored a combined amount of 46 points on the night led
The championship game had the most lopsided result of the tournament, with the
Eagles crushing the Cinderella HPU’s dreams of going to the “Big Dance” with a
70-48 statement. Lewis once again led Winthrop netting 18 points and grabbing
NCAA First Round
The No. 1 South Region seed Duke Blue Devils crushed the sixteenth-seeded Winthrop, 84-
37, in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Bi-Lo Center. The Blue
Devils took a 52-15 lead into the half thanks to Duke’s Carlos Boozer, Mike
Dunleavy and Jason Williams, who combined to score 45 of Duke’s 52 first half
points. Lewis, the only Eagle in double figures, finished out his collegiate
career with 15 points and bringing down 7 rebounds.
First Team All-Conference
Brendon Rowell, Elon
Dustin Van Weerdhuizen, High Point
Andrey Savtchenko, Radford
Andre Smith, UNC Asheville
Greg Lewis, Winthrop
Rookie of the Year
Joe Knight, High Point
Player of the Year
Greg Lewis, Winthrop
Coach of the Year
Eddie Biedenbach, UNC Asheville
Mirko Mandic, Charleston Southern
In: Randy Dunton (A familiar face at Liberty, Dunton will be challenged to
turn the Flames’ program around and hopes to lead them to a winning season in
his first year at LU as head coach.)
Out: Mel Hankinson
In: Byron Samuels (brings a lot of experience and good worth ethics to RU
program. Has already compiled one of the best recruiting classes in recent RU
history and will use his NCAA tourney experience from helping out at Tennessee
a few years back, and help the Highlanders reach the Big Dance for the first
time since ’98.
Out: Ron Bradley (now an assistant at James Madison University)
High Point head coach Jerry Steele was one of seven inductees into the North
Carolina Sports Hall of Fame on May 15 of this summer. Other inductees
include Dominque Wilkins, Carlester Crumpler, and Terry Holland. After being
with High Point for the 30 years (38th overall), Steele has collected 621 wins
(621-497) and holds a 470-423 record at HPU.
Over the summer, three former Big South men’s basketball players have been
selected to three different teams in the NBDL. The Asheville Altitude picked
up former UNC Asheville graduate Josh Pittman (’98), Radford center Ryan
Charles (’00) went to the Roanoke Dazzle and Winthrop’s BSC league Player of
the Year Greg Lewis (’02) joined the Greenville Groove.
ESPN2 has announced their first ever, regular season broadcast of a Big South
basketball game. (Winthrop at Coastal Carolina on Saturday, February 8th).
The Big South Conference announced over the summer that Liberty University
and the city of Lynchburg, Va. will be the host for the 2003 Big South Men’s
and Women’s Basketball Championship. The League also announced a change for
both tournaments, with all of the first round action being held at the home
sites of the higher seeds. The semifinals and finals rounds will be held in
the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University. For the past two
seasons, Radford University and the Roanoke Civic Center have been the hosts
for the tournament.
We Wish Them Well
The Eagles saw league player of the year Greg Lewis graduate last season, and
are now missing 15.4 attributed points per game because of his departure. The
now NBDL rookie collected 313 rebounds in his senior year of play. Marcus
Stewart is not with the Eagles anymore, as they’ll miss his 8.2 points per
game and his 6.0 rebounds that he averaged. Tywan Harris is another player
they’ll miss as he managed 7.5 points per contest and led the team with 49
three pointers made last year.
The Bulldogs are without Robby Joyner, who scored 9.6 points a game and
averaged 4.9 rebounds a game.
The Highlanders were probably hit the hardest the most out of BSC teams that
have to say good-bye to their former star players. RU loses 4 starters from
last season and has to find new ways of scoring because three of their top
four scorers for last season are gone. Andrey Savtchenko, a first team All-
Conference member, averaged 16.2 points a game in addition to grabbing 10
boards a game. Correy Watkins, the team’s third best scorer, ended his RU
career with netting 13.6 per game and bringing down 9.1 boards a game. Guard
Mike Hornbuckle, who was close to gaining another year of eligibility was not
so lucky, and ended his career early on in the season with averaging 11.7
points. Nosa Obasuyi, who got a starting job early on in the season, did a
nice job filling in with 6.2 points a game and pulling in 6.1 rebounds.
The Buccaneers did not lose any key players.
The Phoenix have to say goodbye to two of the teams top scorers in Brendan
Rowell and David Hall. Rowell averaged 13.9 points and also picked up first
team all-Conference honors. Hall managed to score 10 points a game to go
along with the 4.2 boards he averaged.
The Panthers don’t lose too much with last year’s graduating class, except for
Jay Wallace. Wallace averaged 8.5 points a game and will be remembered most
after his 25 point performance against Radford in a semifinal upset over the
The Chants bring in an experienced squad that didn’t lose any players from 2001-02.
The Flames have to deal with the loss of guard Chris Caldwell, one of the
league’s most flamboyant players in recent years. Caldwell led Liberty with
averaging 15.4 points a game and even compiled 72 steals on the year.
Caldwell was named to the second team All-Conference.