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Big South Notebook

December 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big South Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Dunlap

Historic Victory

In eleven tries during the 26-year history of the Winthrop men’s basketball program, the Eagles had never defeated a team from the Southeastern Conference. In fact, Winthrop opened the year with a 65-44 loss to Kentucky, the defending SEC champions. But history was made Tuesday night as the Eagles traveled to Athens, Ga., and not only beat Georgia, but dominated the game from start to finish, winning 80-60.

The victory over the Bulldogs will be added to the list of firsts by Winthrop basketball that have occurred under head coach Gregg Marshall. This list includes the program’s first wins over the Big XII (Missouri in 1999) and ACC (Clemson in 2000), along with the school’s first appearances in the NCAA tournament (1999-2002).

Everything was clicking for the Eagles as they shot the ball extremely well (59 percent from the field, 50 percent from three-point range) and avoided turnovers, committing only seven. Big South preseason player of the year Tyrone Walker lived up to his preseason title by shooting 7-for-9 from the field to lead the Eagles with 20 points. Walker also nabbed a team-high six rebounds.

Crazy Night at the Beach

Coastal Carolina put a huge scare into the College of Charleston Dec. 6, but a raucous, sell-out crowd could not lead the home team to victory as the Cougars beat the Chanticleers in Coastal Carolina’s home opener, 73-72. The game had a little bit of everything, including a big comeback, an ejection and a controversial final call by the officials.

Charleston led 62-48 with a little over eight minutes remaining when the Chanticleers made their move. During the comeback attempt, Coastal Carolina’s senior forward Clint Reed was ejected for a flagrant foul, which caused both coaches to run onto the court to prevent a brawl between the two teams. The ejection did not hinder the comeback efforts of Coastal Carolina as they took the lead in the final minute and held the lead until Charleston grabbed a one-point advantage with eight seconds left. Senior guard Brandon Newby answered with an apparent game-winning lay up with less than a second on the clock, but the officials called a charging foul on Newby, which erased the basket and gave Charleston the victory.

Coastal Carolina coach Pete Strickland strongly disagreed with the call, believing that it was not a charge and that the ball was released before any contact was made anyway. However, his arguments did not change the call or the outcome.

Player of the Week

Radford’s sophomore guard Whit Holcomb-Faye has continued to light up the scoreboard, averaging 29 points per game in two games this week, including 37 points and the game-winning lay up in a win over Howard. Holcomb-Faye leads the Big South in scoring and is fifth in the nation, putting up 23.9 points per game.

Team Reports

Birmingham-Southern Panthers (4-2) Last Week: 1-0

Birmingham-Southern had to come from behind in their only game of the week to boost their record to 4-2. The Panthers hosted Robert Morris Dec. 6 and trailed 33-24 at the half. However, a huge afternoon by junior guard Jakob Sigurdarson pushed Birmingham-Southern to a 83-75 victory. Sigurdarson scored a career-high 29 points, 21 in the second half, and chipped in four rebounds and five assists. Four other Panthers scored in double-figures in the victory, which extended Birmingham-Southern’s home winning streak to eight games.

The Panthers will take the next week off due to exams, returning to the court on Dec. 18 when they head to the Atlantic coast to battle Savannah State.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (2-3) Last Week: 1-0

Charleston Southern could have easily come out flat in their game Wednesday night at home against Voorhees College, an NAIA school from nearby Denmark, S.C. This was Charleston Southern’s first game in ten days because of final exams, and Voorhees is the type of opponent that the Bucs could have easily dismissed as an easy win. In fact, Charleston Southern did start out slowly, but a 9-0 run to end the first half put the Bucs up 39-29 at halftime, and they never looked back, winning 92-73.

The 92-point outburst was easily the best offensive performance for the Bucs, who were only averaging 56.3 points per game coming into the contest. Sophomore guard Terrell Brown scored 20 points, connecting on five three-pointers. Reserve sophomore guard Timon Farley added a career-high 14 points in only eight minutes of action.

The Bucs will be hitting the road this week but staying in-state as they travel to Spartanburg to face Wofford Dec. 13 and then to Columbia to battle South Carolina Dec. 17.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (1-4) Last Week: 0-1

Somewhat lost in the crazy action of Coastal Carolina’s 73-72 loss to the College of Charleston was the career night of senior guard E.J. Gallup. Gallup scored 30 points, making 11-of-17 shots, including 5-of-8 three-pointers to keep the Chanticleers in the game and lead the second half comeback attempt. The offensive outburst pushed Gallup’s scoring average to 19.6 points per game, which is highest on the team and is second highest in the conference behind Radford’s Whit Holcomb-Faye’s 23.9.

Coastal Carolina hopes to end its four-game losing streak when the Chanticleers host Division II St. Andrews Presbyterian College on Sunday.

High Point Panthers (4-3) Last Week: 2-0

Junior forward Danny Gathings continued to lead the Panthers on both the offensive end and on the glass as High Point won both of their games this week. The week started in Emmitsburg, Md., as the Panthers defeated Mount St. Mary’s 72-64. Gathings scored 20 points and added nine rebounds and four blocked shots to carry the Panthers to their second consecutive road victory; they won at Western Carolina last week. JuCo standout Zione White also played well, contributing 16 points and eight rebounds.

High Point then returned home after their five-game road trip and scored the first 15 points of the game to easily defeat Division III Ferrum College 85-64 Tuesday night. Again, Gathings was the star as he collected his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds. White also had a strong game, scoring 17 points, while JuCo center Jerry Echenique helped Gathings on the boards by collecting 12 rebounds.

The Panthers will hit the road again, but only a few miles up the highway, as they face UNC-Greensboro Dec. 13. These two Piedmont Triad schools faced each other last season, with High Point winning 81-74.

Liberty Flames (2-5) Last Week: 1-1

Liberty returned home from their trip in Alaska with a 1-4 season record, but a three-game home stand awaited the Flames, and they were only 2.5 seconds away from starting that home stand 2-0. After easily taking care of NAIA Virginia Intermont, 90-65, the Flames battled Arkansas State in a game that saw neither team lead by more than seven. Liberty held the late advantage, 63-61 with six seconds left, but on an inbounds play from the baseline, Arkansas State’s Tevoris Thompson was open in the corner and connected on his sixth three-pointer of the game with 2.5 seconds remaining to give the Indians the 64-63 victory.

In the win over Virginia Intermont, freshman guard Larry Blair led the Flames with 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including 6-for-6 from behind the arc. However, Blair was shut down in the loss to Arkansas State, only making one field goal and scoring two points.

Liberty finishes their home stand with a game Dec. 11 against Chattanooga before heading back on the road for the first of six games away from the Vines Center, as they take on Iowa State Dec. 13.

Radford Highlanders (4-3) Last Week: 1-1

The Highlanders could not have scripted a more exciting week than the one they had, though they probably would have liked to get two wins in their two games this week instead of splitting them.

Radford opened the week by hosting Marshall and controlling most of the game, leading by ten at halftime and leading most of the second half. But the Thundering Herd charged back and came out of the Dedmon Center with a 79-77 victory.

Radford quickly had to pack their bags and travel to Washington, D.C., as they faced Howard Dec. 6. This time, Radford trailed most of the game and found themselves behind by one point with nine seconds left. But sophomore guard Whit Holcomb-Faye, in the midst of a 37 point game, dribbled the ball all the way down the court and gave the Highlanders the lead and the win with a lay-up with 3.5 seconds left on the clock.

The Highlanders are hoping for another big game from Holcomb-Faye as they travel to nearby Virginia Tech Dec. 13 to battle the Hokies. That game will feature two of the nation’s leading scorers as Holcomb-Faye is averaging 23.9 points and Virginia Tech’s Bryant Matthews is scoring 27.1 per game.

UNC-Asheville Bulldogs (1-5) Last Week: 0-1

UNC-Asheville had defeated Western Carolina for three consecutive seasons, but the Bulldogs were unable to make it four in a row as they lost to the Catamounts, 81-70 in Western Carolina’s Ramsey Activity Center. The Bulldogs were unable to handle Kevin Martin, the nation’s leading scorer, or the ball, leading to the eleven-point defeat. Martin led all scorers in the game with 27 points and UNC-Asheville turned the ball over 23 times, 15 of which came in the first half. Five Bulldogs reached double figures led by sophomore forward Chad Mohn’s 16. Junior forward Bryan McCullough had a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 boards, but it was not enough to overcome the turnovers or the Catamounts’ offense.

The Bulldogs look to snap their three-game losing streak when they host Furman Dec. 14. UNC-Asheville will then head to the beach to face in-state foe UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday.

VMI Keydets (1-5) Last Week: 0-2

VMI’s fellow commonwealth neighbors showed no mercy with the Keydets this week, as Virginia defeated VMI 78-56 Dec. 5 and Virginia Tech beat the Keydets 80-56 Wednesday night. Senior forward Radee Skipworth was the only VMI player in double figures in the loss to the Cavaliers at home. Skipworth shot 7-for-15 from the field, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the game. Skipworth then suffered a sprained ankle in practice Dec. 7, forcing him to sit out of the game against the Hokies, leaving VMI without much offensive firepower. Sophomore guard Levar Joseph led the way in Skipworth’s absence, scoring 18 points, but VMI turned the ball over 25 times, allowing Virginia Tech to win easily.

VMI will look to get their second win of the year when Eastern Mennonite visits the Keydets Dec. 13. Eastern Mennonite is an NCAA Division III team that will come into the game with a 2-3 record on the season.

Winthrop Eagles (5-2) Last Week: 2-1

The historic 80-60 victory over Georgia came after the Eagles hosted their third annual Brothers Air & Heat Shootout at the Winthrop Coliseum this past weekend. The field was very balanced, featuring the Eagles, Hampton, Samford, and Southern Mississippi. Winthrop was also looking to win their tournament for the first time as they have lost in the championship each of the last two seasons. The good news for Winthrop is that they did not lose in the championship game this year, but the bad news is they never got to the championship game, losing to Samford in the opening round, 66-64. The lead switched hands twice in the final thirteen seconds of the game as Winthrop’s freshman guard Torrell Martin hit a 15-foot jumper to give the Eagles a 64-63 lead before Samford’s Robert Merritt hit the game-winning three-pointer from the corner with 2.4 seconds left in the game.

Winthrop then faced Hampton in the consolation game, pulling away in the second half for an 84-74 victory over the Pirates. Senior forward Tyrone Walker struggled in Winthrop’s first five games of the season but found his shooting touch in the win over Hampton, scoring 20 points. Southern Mississippi ended up winning the tournament with a twenty-point triumph over Samford, joining South Carolina State and North Texas in the list of champions of the Brothers Air & Heat Shootout.

Winthrop gets time to relish their victory over Georgia as they take exams over the next week. The Eagles will not play again until Dec. 20 when they travel west to play Wyoming. That game will be the debut of Rice transfer Alex Spotts, who Winthrop head coach Gregg Marshall expects to contribute immediately and possibly become Winthrop’s best outside shooter.


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