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Big South Notebook

January 28, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big South Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Dunlap

Made For TV

Big South teams do not get a whole lot of TV time during the year, but if they consistently performed as they did this weekend on the tube, the networks may want to think about picking up a few more games in the future. On the afternoon of Sat., Jan. 24, both the Coastal Carolina/Radford and Winthrop/Birmingham-Southern games were regionally televised and turned out to be back-and-forth, down-to-the wire affairs.

At Birmingham-Southern’s Bill Battle Coliseum, the Panthers hosted Winthrop in a game that saw Winthrop take an early 12-point lead and a 38-28 halftime lead. BSC came right back in the second half, going on a 15-2 run to take the lead early in the half and extending to nine points with only a few minutes left. Winthrop battled back using a full-court press and took the lead on a Torrell Martin lay-up with 40 seconds remaining. However, James Collins calmly hit two free throws with 3.2 seconds left in the game to give Birmingham-Southern the 70-69 win.

At the same time at Radford’s Dedmon Center, the Highlanders took on Coastal Carolina and pulled off an amazing second half comeback to force overtime and win 77-76 in the extra frame. Coastal Carolina held a fourteen-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining, and a seven-point lead with only 40 seconds remaining. However, a free throw by RU followed by two three-pointers by Chris Goodin (the last one with 24 seconds left) sent the game to overtime. In the extra period, the teams traded baskets most of the way, setting up the game winning leaner by Olumuyiwa Popoola with two seconds left in the game when the Highlanders were down 76-75.

Player of the Week

Radford junior guard Olumuyiwa Popoola not only had the game-winning shot against Coastal Carolina but had also had a strong week behind the three-point arc, making 8-of-12 three-pointers in Radford’s two victories. Popoola also turned the ball over only one time while averaging 17.5 points per game for the week.

Team Reports – (Note: Teams are now listed in the order that they appear in the conference standings)

High Point Panthers (13-5, 6-1) Last Week: 1-0

The Panthers remained in first place and earned their first-ever victory at UNC-A’s Justice Center with an 83-70 win over the Bulldogs Jan. 24. Junior forward Danny Gathings got his ninth double-double of the year, leading the Panthers with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Junior center Jerry Echenique also had 20 points and chipped in with nine rebounds.

High Point will travel to Birmingham Jan. 28 in a battle for first-place with Birmingham-Southern. The Panthers will then return home to try and get revenge from the only conference team that beat them as they play Liberty Jan. 31.

Birmingham-Southern Panthers (13-5, 6-2) Last Week: 2-1

Birmingham-Southern had a relatively good week, moving into sole possession of second place and getting a win in their first-ever regionally telecast Big South game.

The Panthers opened their week with their first conference road loss, as they had trouble finding the basket in a 57-53 loss at Radford. However, home was much kinder to BSC as they defeated Liberty 67-63 in a game in which they never trailed and then beat Winthrop in a thrilling, televised game, 70-69. Strong guard play led to both of Birmingham-Southern’s wins as guards Jakob Sigurdarson, Derrick Williams and James Collins all contributed with double-digit scoring games, led by Sigurdarson’s 18 points in the win over Liberty.

Birmingham-Southern has a chance to catch first-place High Point as they battle the other Panthers at home Jan. 28. After that, they will hit the road for the South Carolina coast to face Coastal Carolina Jan. 31.

Winthrop Eagles (11-8, 5-3) Last Week: 1-1

Winthrop started the week with a rather easy 68-50 win over Charleston Southern, but then had to settle for a heart-breaking loss, and a season sweep, at the hands of Birmingham-Southern, 70-69. Senior forward Tyrone Walker led the way in the win over the Bucs with 14 points. Senior forward Marcus Cooke chipped in 12 in the victory. Cooke was also strong in the loss to Birmingham-Southern, scoring from both inside and out with 20 points.

The Eagles finish off a stretch of five-out-of-six road games by traveling to Liberty Jan. 29 to face the Flames then heading to VMI to play the Keydets Jan. 31. Following this week’s games, Winthrop will have four of its last six games at the Winthrop Coliseum.

Radford Highlanders (8-9, 4-3) Last Week: 2-0

Home continues to be a friendly place for the Highlanders as they beat Birmingham-Southern 57-53 and Coastal Carolina 77-76 in overtime this week at the Dedmon Center to improve their home conference record to 4-0 this season. Junior guard Olumuyiwa Popoola earned Hoopville Big South Player of the Week honors with his 17.5 points per game over the week. Sophomore forward Chris Goodin also played well, averaging 14.5 points over the week and hitting a three-pointer to put the Coastal Carolina game into overtime.

Radford will look to build on their home success as they host Charleston Southern Jan. 26. The Highlanders will then try to earn their first conference road win as they head to UNC Asheville Jan. 31.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (9-9, 4-3) Last Week: 1-1

The Chanticleers started the week on a high note, beating UNC Asheville at home 73-65 before ending it on a downer, dropping their third one-point game of the season, this time at Radford in overtime, 77-76. Senior guard Brandon Newby had a strong week, scoring 13 points in the win over UNC-A and 24 points in the loss to Radford. Newby also averaged six rebounds over the two games. Junior guard Alvin Green had 10 assists in the UNC-A game, showing no effects of the ankle injury that sidelined him earlier in the month.

Coastal Carolina finishes off their trip to Virginia with a game at VMI Jan. 26. The Chants will then head back to the cozy confines of Kimble Arena to take on Birmingham-Southern Jan. 31.

Liberty Flames (7-12, 4-3) Last Week: 1-1

Liberty has learned that its strengths lie in three players, freshman guards David Dees and Larry Blair and senior forward Gabe Martin. In a 66-46 win to open the week at home against VMI, Dees led the team with 22 points, while Blair added 10 points and Martin chipped in eight points and six boards. Two days later in a 67-63 loss at Birmingham-Southern, Martin was the scoring machine, draining three-pointers on his way to a 23-point effort in the loss. Dees (13 points) and Blair (12 points) were the only other Flames in double-figures.

The Flames will host Winthrop Jan. 29 before heading to the Millis Center to face first-place High Point Jan. 31. Liberty has been the only Big South team to beat High Point this season, as they won a 79-66 decision in early January.

UNC Asheville Bulldogs (4-15, 2-6) Last Week: 0-2

Consistency remains elusive for the young Bulldogs, as they followed up a solid win over Charleston Southern coming into this week with two losses. UNC-A lost at Coastal Carolina, 73-65, Jan. 19 despite a career-high 20 points from sophomore guard Oliver Holmes. The result was pretty much the same Jan. 24, as the Bulldogs fell at home to High Point, 83-70. Freshman guard K.J. Garland was the star of the show for UNCA, scoring 18 points and dishing out four assists.

UNC-A has most of the week off, before hosting Radford Jan. 31. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Bulldogs were on the wrong end of a 73-58 score at Radford.

VMI Keydets (3-13, 1-5) Last Week: 0-1

VMI has had a hard time winning games recently, and their woes continued this week with a 66-46 loss at Liberty Jan. 20. The Keydets only shot 34 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free-throw line in the loss to the Flames, which was VMI’s third straight loss by at least 20 points. Freshman forward Matt Murrer was the only Keydet in double-figures, scoring 10 points in the loss.

VMI has a busy week, but luckily for them, it will all be at home. The Keydets will host Coastal Carolina Jan. 26, Charleston Southern two days later before wrapping up this home stand with a game against Winthrop Jan. 31.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (3-14, 0-6) Last Week: 0-1

Charleston Southern remains winless in the conference and had its losing streak increase to six games this week with a 68-50 loss at Winthrop. The Buccaneers continue to struggle offensively, only averaging 57 points in Big South contests this year. Junior forward Kurtis Rice (11 points) and freshman guard Donnell Covington (10 points) were the only Bucs in double-figures against Winthrop. Senior guard Ed O’Neil did chip in nine points along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

If the Bucs want to snap their losing streak, they will have to do it on the road this week. CSU will take on Radford Jan. 26 before heading up I-81 to battle VMI Jan. 28.


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