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Big South Notebook

January 13, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big South Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Dunlap

On Fire

The Flames of Liberty University had a tough schedule to open the season, but even then, they were shaky at best heading into their conference slate with a 3-9 record. However, after losing the conference opener at Coastal Carolina on a late three-pointer (see last week’s Big South Notebook), Liberty has been red-hot, winning their last three games, including a win over High Point, which entered the game undefeated in Big South play.

Liberty opened the week with a relatively easy win at Charleston Southern, 71-55, before heading home for a pair of games against UNC-Asheville and High Point. The Flames struggled early against UNC-A but ended up taking a 84-72 victory over the defending conference champions and followed up with a very impressive performance against High Point, beating the Panthers 79-66.

Crowded at the Top

Joining Liberty (3-1 in conference play) at the top of the standings are High Point and Birmingham-Southern. Also, only a half game behind, Coastal Carolina (2-1) is right near the top with the leaders. These four teams have already started beating each other up. Liberty and Birmingham-Southern have both lost to Coastal Carolina, Coastal has lost to High Point, and High Point has lost to Liberty. With all of these teams beating each other, it makes the Big South the only conference in Division I without a team with an undefeated conference record.

Player of the Week

Every big-time player in the league seemed to have an off game recently, so even though Winthrop senior forward Tyrone Walker had a poor showing in the Eagles’ loss to High Point with only 6 points but 9 rebounds, he helped carry Winthrop in their two wins this week. Against, Radford, Walker scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. In a win over VMI, Walker just missed a triple-double, scoring 20 points, getting 9 rebounds and dishing out a career-high 8 assists. So despite the rough game against High Point, Walker managed to average 18.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3 steals, and only 1.3 turnovers per game this week.

Team Reports

Birmingham-Southern Panthers (10-4, 3-1) Last Week: 2-1

Birmingham-Southern slipped up once in the past week, falling to Coastal Carolina at home for the second year in a row, but remains tied at the top of the standings at 3-1 with wins this week over UNC-Asheville and Charleston Southern.

BSC opened the week with a 72-54 win at UNC-Asheville Jan. 5. Junior guard Jakob Sigurdarson was the Panthers’ leading scorer with 21 points in the easy win over the Bulldogs. BSC had its eight-game home winning streak snapped Jan. 8 with a 77-71 loss to Coastal Carolina. Sophomore guard James Collins scored 19 points, with senior guard Derrick Williams and Sigurdarson both scoring in double-figures as well.

The Panthers finished with a win at home over Charleston Southern, 75-61. Senior forward Grant Davis led five Panther players in double-figures, scoring 17 points.

The Panthers have a long break, with their next game on the road against the other conference newcomer, VMI, Jan. 17. BSC’s trip to Lexington, Va., will mark the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (3-11, 0-3) Last Week: 0-2

The first conference win of the season has remained elusive to Charleston Southern, as the Bucs dropped their last two games to fall to 0-3 in the Big South, remaining the only winless team in the conference. Liberty came to the BucDome Jan. 5 and had a relatively easy time beating CSU, 71-55. The Bucs then had to travel to Birmingham-Southern, and the result was similar as CSU fell 75-61. Junior forward Kurtis Rice did his best to keep the Bucs in both games, scoring a team-high 18 points against Liberty and 15 points against Birmingham-Southern.

CSU will have two chances this week to earn that first conference win of the season, with both games at home. The Bucs will host rival Coastal Carolina Jan. 13 before taking on UNC-Asheville Jan. 17.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (7-7, 2-1) Last Week: 1-1

Coastal has one of the better home-court advantages in the Big South, but it did not seem to help them as they fell to High Point at home, 75-69 Jan. 5. However, the Chants were able to come back three days later by going on the road and beating Birmingham-Southern in Bill Battle Coliseum, which is also one of the toughest courts to play on, 77-71.

Senior guard Brandon Newby led the Chants in both games, scoring 20 points in the loss to High Point and 23 points in the win over Birmingham-Southern. The Chants were hampered by a season-ending injury to senior forward Clint Reed, who will miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. Reed injured the wrist in Coastal’s win over Liberty Jan. 3.

The Chants will play a pair of games this week. First, they will head down the coast to face Charleston Southern Jan. 13 before returning home Jan. 17 to battle Winthrop.

High Point Panthers (10-5, 3-1) Last Week: 2-1

The Panthers outlasted the rest of the conference, beating Coastal Carolina, 75-69 Jan. 5 and Winthrop, 77-62 Jan. 8 to be the last undefeated team in conference play. But that joy only lasted two days as Liberty knocked off High Point, 79-66 Jan. 10. However, the Panthers are still in a tie for first place and easily look like a team that could stay near the top the rest of the season.

In the win over Coastal Carolina, High Point never trailed but had to withstand a late Coastal run to hold on to the victory. Junior center Jerry Echenique was the leading High Point scorer with 17 points and junior forward Danny Gathings contributed with a double-double, 15 points and 10 rebounds. The win over Winthrop was historic for the Panthers, marking the first time in thirteen tries that High Point has beaten the Eagles. Junior guard Zione White was the biggest contributor, scoring 24 points behind a perfect 6-for-6 night from the field (4-for-4 from behind the arc).

High Point will get an opportunity to get back to their winning ways this week as they host a pair of games. VMI will be the opponent Jan. 14, and Radford comes to town Jan. 17 to take on the Panthers.

Liberty Flames (6-10, 3-1) Last Week: 3-0

Liberty bounced back from their conference-opening loss to win three straight games this past week. But you should already know that if you read the beginning of this Big South Notebook. The Flames have been led by different players in every game. In the win over Charleston Southern, freshman guard David Dees scored 24 points to carry the Flames. Senior guard Ryan Mantlo was the key to the win over UNC-Asheville. Mantlo scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in the victory. Finally, freshman guard Larry Blair took his turn in running the show. Blair scored 23 points in the big 79-66 win over High Point.

If Liberty wants to continue its winning streak, the Flames will have to do it against their biggest rival. The Flames will travel to Radford Jan. 14 to face the nearby Highlanders in a game that is sure to be intense.

Radford Highlanders (5-8, 1-2) Last Week: 1-2

It was a crazy start of the week for head coach Byron Samuels and the Radford Highlanders. Radford traveled to Winthrop Jan. 5 and blew a seven-point overtime lead, losing 78-76 as Winthrop finished the game with a 9-0 run. Samuels was not there to see much of the game, though, after getting ejected only ten minutes into the game for arguing with the officials.

Things were much calmer as the week went on, but the Highlanders did become the first victim of VMI in the Big South. The Highlanders went to VMI Jan. 8 and fell victim to poor shooting and lost to the host, 69-58. In the week’s finale, Radford finally was able to get their first conference win, beating UNC-Asheville at home 73-58 behind a 22-point, eight-assist effort by sophomore guard Whit Holcomb-Faye.

Radford has its hands full with games against two of the conference leaders this week. The Highlanders open the week with a home game against Liberty Jan. 14 before heading down to High Point Jan. 17.

UNC-Asheville Bulldogs (3-12, 1-3) Last Week: 0-3

January has historically been a good month for head coach Eddie Biedenbach and the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs, but this year may turn out to be the exception as UNC-A has dropped its last three games, with none of the games being very close.

UNC-A opened the week with a loss at home to Birmingham-Southern, 72-54 before heading into Virginia for their next two games. In the first game of the trip the Bulldogs fell to Liberty, 84-72 Jan. 8 then lost 73-58 to Radford two days later. UNC-A seems to be feeling the effects of losing junior center Joseph Barber for the season because of a knee injury suffered Jan. 3. The only real breakthrough performance during this current losing streak occurred in the loss to Radford, as freshman guard K.J. Garland scored 27 points behind 10-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc.

UNC-Asheville looks to get back into the win column with two games in the upcoming week. The Bulldogs will host Winthrop Jan. 14 before heading to Charleston Southern Jan. 17.

VMI Keydets (3-10, 1-2) Last Week: 1-1

The friendly confines of Cameron Hall, even without the student corps, was all VMI needed to notch their first-ever Big South Conference win. The Keydets took advantage of a 19-point effort by senior forward Radee Skipworth to beat their I-81 neighbor Radford Highlanders, 69-58 Jan. 8. Senior guard Richard Little chipped in with eight assists as VMI held Radford to only 36 percent shooting from the field.

VMI was not able to carry the momentum from their first conference win on the road to Rock Hill, S.C., though, as the Keydets fell to Winthrop 78-62 Jan. 10. Again, Skipworth led the Keydets in scoring, this time notching 20 points. VMI has had a lot of trouble away from home, as the loss to Winthrop dropped their record to 0-8 away from Cameron Hall.

The upcoming schedule is not very kind for the Keydets. On January 14, VMI will hit the road and face High Point. Afterwards, they will return home and battle Birmingham-Southern Jan. 17.

Winthrop Eagles (8-7, 2-2) Last Week: 2-1

Winthrop has traded wins and losses in the Eagles’ first four conference games of the year. Following their loss to Birmingham-Southern last week, Winthrop hosted Radford and beat the Highlanders 78-76 in a game that saw both coaches get ejected in the game. Winthrop head coach Gregg Marshall lasted much longer than his Radford counterpart but was ejected early in the overtime period after getting his second technical foul. This forced Marshall to miss his squad claw back from a seven-point deficit with three minutes remaining to win the game.

In Winthrop’s other two games of the week, Winthrop lost on the road to High Point, 77-62 and beat VMI, 78-62. The High Point game saw the return of senior forward Marcus Cooke, who returned from missing the Radford game with a sprained left wrist. He led the way for the Eagles with 12 points, but it was far from enough to win the game, as Winthrop lost for the first time ever to the Panthers. Senior forward Tyrone Walker scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and got eight assists in the win over VMI, which marked the first time Winthrop has beaten the Keydets. Junior guard Brandon Key also scored a career-high 20 points to match Walker for team-high honors.

The Eagles have revenge on their mind with a couple of road games this week. Winthrop will travel to UNC-Asheville Jan. 14 to face the team that ended their run of four consecutive conference championships. Winthrop heads to Coastal Carolina Jan. 17, the same place they lost a nationally televised game against the Chants last season.

     

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