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Big South Notebook

December 13, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Big South Notebook

by Doug McKinney


In quest for recognition, the Big South finds itself above the .500 mark

Slowly but surely, the Big South Conference is trying to make its way up to
getting the national respect they deserve. So far 22-21 in overall play, the
Big South has had some interesting things happen to them on their conquest of
tuning up before conference play. The surprise success of Liberty University,
who is currently 4-2 on the year, has made Big South fans aware that anyone
can win the Big South this year. Another remarkable scenario is the almost
near upsets UNC Asheville and High Point had against three ranked teams.
Winthrop has a .500 record, while Charleston Southern places first in the Big
South. Elon has three wins as well as Coastal Carolina. Radford University,
a very young and small team, is still looking for answers to replace the four
starters they lost last year. As these teams are meshing together trying to
find their identity in the ensuing weeks to conference play, given any
indication on how the season started off, the Big South Conference might turn
a few heads and maybe finally gain some attention while doing so.

Winthrop (4-4)

The Eagles, Hoopville’s preseason No. 1 BSC team, have been plagued by injuries
but still have managed to keep a .500 record. While the Eagles were beaten by
a good Utah team by 30, WU has pulled out wins over Gardner-Webb and at
Montana State. Tyrone Walker has shown he can step in for last year’s BSC
player of the year Greg Lewis, as he has brought down 8.9 boards a game and is
scoring 16.4 points a game. Backing up Walker’s effort is Pierre Wooten who
has 7.3 points a game, a team leading 21 assists, but also leads the team in
turnovers at 24. Up next for the Eagles is a date with ACC foe Clemson on Dec
19. Last year Winthrop stunned Tiger fans with a 66-61 victory and the man
who led the way was none other than Walker who netted 25. If the Eagles could
somehow upset Clemson again, momentum will be on their side, which will be
important for the defending champs when they open up their Big South season at
Radford on Jan 2.

UNC Asheville (2-3)

UNCA has by far the hardest schedule out of all the teams in the Big South.
The Bulldogs have lost three games this year, with two of the losses coming to
ranked teams. UNCA played tough with Michigan State losing by 14, before
coming up just short of a near upset with a 87-81 loss to Minnesota back in
the first week of the season. From then on, the Bulldogs dominated Montreat
winning 102-73, followed by an impressive 77-72 win over Western Carolina.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs is senior BSC preseason player of the year,
Andre Smith, who averages 19.6 points per game and has a .533 three point
shooting percentage. Ben McGonagil has also chipped in for the Bulldog
attack, scoring 13.6 points and grabbing 6.8 rebounds a game. Bryan
McCullough has averaged 11.2 points a game. The Bulldogs will have one more
tune up (Sat against Campbell) before heading into the hardest stretch of
their non-conference schedule and before opening up BSC play. UNCA will
travel to Connecticut next Saturday to face a tough Huskie team, play at Holy
Cross the next day, not to mention they have to head down to Oklahoma on Dec
30, before having a date at Kansas on Jan 2. The Big South season starts on
Jan 5, when Liberty comes into town.

Charleston Southern (4-1)

Despite an early season loss to College of Charleston, the Bucs are on top of
the Big South Conference with a 4-1 record. Wins come against Anderson,
Stetson, The Citadel, and most recently Vorhees College. CSU travels to face
a struggling Michigan on Sat, then making stops at Tennessee (Dec 17) and
Florida (Dec 23), before hosting Lefty Driesell’s Georgia State Panthers on
Dec 28. CSU’s Kevin Warzynski leads the team in points (13.2) and rebounds
(8.0) a game. The Bucs have two players tied at averaging 11.4 points a game
in Gene Granger and Charles White. The way the Bucs have been playing, an
upset or two could be in the making in the upcoming weeks.

High Point (2-3)

If the Panthers played the second half the same way they did in the first
against powerhouse Kentucky, one of the biggest upsets in school history
could’ve been possible. HPU was only down 6 to nationally ranked UK at
halftime, but instead, the Panthers allowed a 24-5second half Wildcats run to
fall 84-64. Almost a week before the loss at UK, the Panthers snapped their
two game win streak with a 91-65 loss to Clemson, the beginning of a three
game losing streak. The most recent loss came against the Citadel last
Friday. Despite the losing streak, the biggest story for the Panthers is the
unexpected exceptional play of sophomore transfer Danny Gathings. Gathings, a
transfer from Virginia Tech, averages 16 points a game to go along with 6.2
rebounds a game. Dustin Van Weerdhuizen averages 14.2 points a game, while
BSC 2001 freshmen of the year Joe Knight scores 11.3 points a game. HPU will
travel to Vanderbilt (Dec 15), Campbell (Dec 17), and to Washington State (Dec
21) in the upcoming week.

Coastal Carolina (3-3)

The Chants, led by Torrey Butler’s 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds a game, have
won three games and have improved on their 1-5 start from last year. The
problem is the three losses CCU has suffered this year, have all been
blowouts. With losses to Florida (88-45), Campbell (65-49), and Georgetown
(87-60), the Chants will look to improve on their 3-3 record with home games
against Newberry (Dec 18) and a very tough East Carolina (Dec 23) team and a
game at East Tennessee State (Dec 20). Coach Pete Strickland, the Hoopville
BSC 2002 coach on the hot seat, must find some way to help out this Chants
team, because the talent on his team is much better then the record they are
showing.

Elon (3-1)

The Phoenix have a 3-1 record, but two of the wins come over a Division 3
school (St. Mary’s, MD) and an NAIA school (Bluefield, VA). Elon will have to
travel to UNC Greensboro (Dec 15), Northwestern (Dec 18), Marquette (Dec 21),
and American (Dec 28) in the next two weeks before opening their Big South
season. The leader for the Phoenix has been Gary Marsh who averages 12.5
points a game. Scottie Rice has also had an impressive season, averaging 11.2
points a game and is shooting .500 behind the arc.

Liberty (4-2)

Liberty University has been one of the most surprising stories in the Big
South thus far. Liberty has knocked off Western Carolina and New Hampshire,
split games with VMI, and edged William & Mary. Their other came in overtime
to American. The go to guy for the Flames has been Vincent Okotie, who scores
16 points a game. Also helping out is Gabe Martin, behind his 12 points and
5.2 rebounds a game. The Flames will host McNeese State (Dec 14) and Florida
Atlantic (Dec 20) before traveling to Iowa (Dec 22), Clemson (Dec 28), and
Virginia (Dec 30). At this point of the year last season, Liberty was 1-5.

Radford (2-4)

Coach Byron Samuels doesn’t believe in the term rebuilding, just building on
to what his program already has. So far this season, it doesn’t seem like
much. The Highlanders have gotten off to a 2-4 start and are currently in a
two game losing streak with away games against Marshall (Dec 14), Akron (Dec
21), and Ohio State (Dec 23) coming up. RU has been looking for ways to score
behind Raymond “Peanut” Arrington’s 13 points a game and freshmen Whit Holcomb-
Faye’s 12.8. RU has lost two games this year by more then 40 points and are
getting outscored eighteen points as well as out rebounded by eleven. In the
opening weeks RU looked small and young and must find a way to win some games
if they want to be a competitor in the Big South this year.

Birmingham-Southern sure to be a competitor

The Panthers are just a year away from competing in the Big South but are sure
showing that they belong. Derrick Williams scored 22 points, 12 of them
coming from behind the arc, to lead BSC over Louisiana-Lafayette, 92-86 this
past Sunday. The win marks one of the schools biggest in history. The
Panthers are 4-0 at Bill Battle Coliseum this year, and are 4-2 overall. This
Sunday they will travel to Tallahassee where they’ll face Florida State out of
the ACC.

Early Signings
Radford – Anthony Teague, Reggie McIntyre
Winthrop – Torrell Martin
Charleston Southern – Carter Stiglbauer, Issac Jones, VJ Fails
Liberty – Larry Blair, David Dees
High Point – Jeff Allen, Matt Anderson, Josh Fowler
Elon – Matt Nowlin, Montell Watson, Bryce Husak

New Conference Format

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.

     

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