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Big South Conference Notebook

November 28, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big South Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Dunlap

No Surprises Here

Early season games in the Big South, especially the match-ups in the first
week, typically come in two forms: The impossible games against the
heavyweight contenders from the major conferences and the easy wins against
non-Division I schools. Granted, there are a few instances of competitive
games against other low-major conference schools, but on any given night in
November, you are more likely to see Kentucky or Bluefield on the schedule
than William and Mary or Alabama State.

There have been times in the past when the impossible happens and the
high-profile team gets beaten by a Big South team, such as when Winthrop
beat Missouri in 1999. There have also been times in the past when the
non-Division I school has the last laugh, such as when Montreat knocked off
UNC-Asheville in 2001. But so far this season, the favorites have held
serve, as the Big South currently stands at 0-9 against teams from the
traditional power conferences and 6-0 against non-Division I schools.

The schedule does balance out in the next week, as only two non-Division I
schools are on the slate and Virginia is the only certain heavyweight that
will take on a Big South squad, though Liberty could face Duke in the second
round of the Great Alaska Shootout. This will lead to closer, less
predictable games and give fans, players and coaches a better indication of
their teams’ quality.

Bad First Impression

It is never easy being the new kid in town, and it is imperative to make a
good first impression with your new peers to win their respect. In case you
had forgotten, VMI is starting its first season in the Big South, anxious to
prove that they can immediately be in the thick of the conference race. The
Keydets had a perfect opportunity to impress their new league as they tipped
off the season in the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska.
However, it is doubtful that anyone is picking VMI to win the league after
they went 0-3 in Alaska, falling to Washington State, Texas-San Antonio, and
Binghamton. Luckily for the Keydets, they are back home and get to play four
of their next five games at Cameron Hall, giving them a great chance to
recover from their slow start.


High Point walked off the floor of Littlejohn Coliseum Nov. 24 thinking they
had lost to the Clemson Tigers by the score of 88-81. But in post-game
interviews, new Panther head coach Bart Lundy was told that virtually every
writer on press row believed the score to be 86-81, and that the official
scorer may have inadvertently awarded two baskets early in the second half
to Clemson’s Sherrod Ford, when he should have only been awarded with one.

Though the two points do not affect the final outcome now, one has to
believe that High Point may have played a little differently down the
stretch if their five-point deficits were only three and their one-point
deficits would have been one-point leads. Clemson officials have said that
the official score will stand at 88-81 and that they have not yet reviewed
any game tapes to see if the mistake occurred.

Player of the Week

Radford sophomore guard Whit Holcomb-Faye, the Big South’s reigning freshman
of the year, has avoided any type of sophomore slump so far this season. In
his first three games, Holcomb-Faye has averaged over 21 points, six
assists, and has shot 55% from three-point range. He capped off the week
with a double-double against North Carolina A&T, scoring seventeen points
and dishing out ten assists.

Team Reports

Birmingham-Southern Panthers (2-1)

After suffering a 20-point loss at Kansas State, the Panthers have bounced
back nicely, slipping by Alabama State 67-57 and pounding Millsaps 96-50.
Junior center Shema Mbyirukira has been a force on both ends of the court,
averaging thirteen points and blocking four shots per game. In the season
opener, Mbyirukira set the Birmingham-Southern career shot-block record,
breaking the old record of 123 blocks. Alongside him in the frontcourt,
senior forward Grant Davis is attempting to become the league’s version of
Dennis Rodman, as he has more rebounds (31) than points (23) through the
first three games of the season.

Birmingham-Southern will come back from the Thanksgiving holiday with a home
game against LaGrange on Saturday before heading across town to battle UAB
on Wednesday.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (1-1)

Cross-town rivalries are usually the best type of rivalry but don’t tell
that to Charleston Southern as they fell to College of Charleston for the
22nd consecutive time last Friday, 83-66. Luckily for the Bucs, Webber
International, a 0-7 NAIA school, came to town three days later, and
Charleston Southern was able to get into the win column. JuCo transfer
Kurtis Rice led the way in the 70-55 win by notching his first double-double
with fourteen points and ten boards. Sophomore guard Terrell Brown has also
emerged as a threat for the Bucs, scoring in double figures in both games
and helping senior Ed O’Neil with the point guard duties.

Charleston Southern will be traveling to New Britain, Conn. this weekend to
participate in the Mohegan Sun Classic. The Bucs will face the host, Central
Connecticut State, on Saturday afternoon. Their second game will be Sunday
against either Binghamton or Loyola-Marymount.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (1-2)

It was difficult for the Coastal Carolina basketball team to get any
attention this week as the school’s football team was finishing its
inaugural season in nearby Charleston and the nationally ranked men’s soccer
team was hosting their first-ever NCAA tournament game. It probably did not
help that the Chanticleer basketball players were hundreds of miles away to
start the season, first at the Marist Shootout in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., during
the weekend, then at Georgetown in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

In the Marist Shootout, the Chanticleers knocked off Marist before falling
to Yale. Senior guard Brandon Newby, coming off of an injured foot that
forced him to sit out the 2002-’03 season, and senior guard E.J. Gallup both
made the All-Tournament team. In Georgetown, Newby with sixteen points and
Gallup with twelve points again led the way for Coastal Carolina, but their
efforts could not overcome the Hoyas, as the Chanticleers lost a game that
was much closer than the 81-68 final score may indicate.

Coastal Carolina continues its season-opening road trip, traveling to
Greenville, N.C., to take on East Carolina on Saturday.

High Point Panthers (1-2)

In three games to start his Division I coaching career, Bart Lundy has been
involved in three very different games. The Panthers opened with a blowout
107-71 win over Allen University, a nail-biting 88-81 loss to Clemson and an
ugly 84-49 loss to Michigan. It is obvious that Lundy plans to run a
high-octane offense, and that means that High Point’s opponents will get
plenty of opportunities to score, which has been a problem for the Panthers
early on as they allow 81 points per game.

The loss at Clemson, besides the previously mentioned scoring controversy,
was also a homecoming of sorts for one of the many new members of the High
Point team. JuCo transfer Zione White was a football and basketball star at
nearby Spartanburg High School, and he did not disappoint the many friends
and family who came to the game at Littlejohn Coliseum. White scored 26
points on 9-for-15 shooting to keep the Panthers in the game.

This upcoming week, High Point will be traveling to Virginia to take on the
Cavaliers on Sunday and then head to the mountains to face Western Carolina
on Tuesday.

Liberty Flames (0-2)

Liberty had high hopes coming into this season, but their early games have
shown that they may need some improvement before conference play begins if
they want to contend. After a season-opening loss at home to Miami (OH),
71-55, the Flames fell to a hot-shooting William and Mary team in
Williamsburg, Va., Nov. 23, 91-64. The Tribe hit fourteen three-pointers and
limited Liberty to only nineteen percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Hoopville preseason freshman of the year Larry Blair has struggled in the
early going for Liberty, shooting two-for-eighteen in two games and has not
hit a three-pointer in eleven attempts.

The Flames head to Alaska, hoping for better luck as they compete in the
Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage over the Thanksgiving weekend. Liberty
opens up Thanksgiving night against Canisius and a win would lead to a
potential match-up with Duke in the second round that would be televised on
ESPN. Pacific, Purdue, Seton Hall, Texas State-San Marcos and host
Alaska-Anchorage round out the field.

Radford Highlanders (3-0)

The Highlanders are off to their best start since the 1998-’99 season and
are the only unbeaten team remaining in the Big South with a 3-0 start.
Bluefield, William and Mary, and North Carolina A&T have all fallen victim
to Radford this week, with the Highlanders being led by player of the week
Holcomb-Faye. Holcomb-Faye has been nearly unstoppable and has been helped
by freshman forward Chris Oliver, who has averaged 12.3 points per game and
has shot 67 percent, sophomore guard Chris Goodin, who has averaged 12.3
points per game, and sophomore guard Andre Bynum 5.3 assists per game.

The Highlanders have a couple of home games this week, hosting Akron on
Saturday and American on Tuesday.

UNC-Asheville Bulldogs (1-2)

UNC-Asheville has made a habit of playing difficult schedules to start the
year, and this season is no exception as the Bulldogs fell to both No. 25
North Carolina State and Iowa to start the season before heading home to
face a much easier opponent in Brevard. UNC-Asheville has not been relying
on any one player so far this year. Junior forward Joseph Barber, freshman
guard K.J. Garland, sophomore forward Chad Mohn, and junior forward Bryan
McCullough are all averaging between nine and eleven points per game to lead
the team.

The Bulldogs get to host two strong teams in the next week. Charlotte, fresh
off of their victory over No. 6 Syracuse, comes to the Asheville Civic
Center on Sunday followed by defending Southern Conference champ East
Tennessee State visiting the Justice Center on Wednesday.

VMI Keydets (0-3)

Alaska was unkind to VMI as the Keydets finished last in the eight-team
field at the Top of the World Classic this past weekend in Fairbanks. The
temperatures outside were not the only things that were cold as VMI shot
only 36 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range. As
expected, senior forward Radee Skipworth was the most consistent and best
overall player for the Keydets, averaging twelve points per game and five
rebounds per game for the tournament.

VMI will look to get in the win column when they hit their home court for
the first time on Tuesday against Southern Virginia.

Winthrop Eagles (1-1)

Winthrop has faced both ends of the basketball spectrum to start the season.
The Eagles opened up at No. 10 Kentucky in their first ever visit to Rupp
Arena Nov. 21. Though the Eagles were strong on the defensive end, forcing
24 turnovers and holding Kentucky to 65 points, their offense left much to
be desired, only scoring 44 points and turning the ball over 29 times.

The Eagles were able to regain any lost confidence from the Kentucky game by
crushing Maine-Machias Nov. 24, 96-46. Preseason player of the year Tyrone
Walker bounced back from a disappointing outing at Kentucky, where he scored
only four points, by notching thirteen points and eight rebounds. Junior
center Josh Grant broke the Winthrop career record for blocked shots during
the Kentucky game, breaking the old record of 103 that he shared with Allen
Washington, who played for the Eagles in the mid-1980s.

The Eagles will host Coker on Saturday before taking on Ohio Valley
Conference foe Eastern Kentucky at the Winthrop Coliseum on Tuesday.


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