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Big South Notebook

February 10, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big South Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Dunlap

More TV Drama

Two weeks after a pair of Big South regionally telecasted games went to the wire, the Charleston Southern/High Point game played on Fri., Feb. 6, was also on the tube and turned out to be more thrilling than probably any other Big South game this year. The game was played in front of a capacity crowd at High Point’s Millis Center and featured a strong HPU team hosting the last place CSU team. Surprisingly, not only did Charleston Southern keep the game close throughout but also they were able to force the game into overtime, almost winning in regulation when a layup by CSU’s Thomas Harrison missed at the buzzer.

In the overtime period, Charleston Southern was able to tie the game at 78-78 with 1.5 seconds left on a Kurtis Rice layup, which set up the highlight reel finish by High Point. HPU’s Zione White lofted a three-quarter-court pass to Danny Gathings at the three-point line at the top of the key. In one motion, Gathings jumped with his back to the basket, caught the pass, turned to face the basket and released a shot that hit nothing but net as the buzzer sounded, leading the record-crowd to mob Gathings on the court and give the Panthers an 81-78 victory.

Player of the Week

The miraculous game winning shot may have overshadowed what was a very strong outing for High Point junior forward Danny Gathings. Gathings ended up scoring 24 points and getting 11 rebounds in the win over Charleston Southern, which was High Point’s only game this past week. The highlight reel shot, along with the strong numbers, were enough to earn Gathings his second Hoopville Big South Player of the Week honor of the season.

Team Reports

Birmingham-Southern Panthers (17-5, 10-2) Last Week: 2-0

The wins continue to pile up for the Birmingham-Southern Panthers, whose winning streak has reached six games with a pair of victories last week. The Panthers opened the week at Charleston Southern and had to battle back from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat the Bucs 75-65. Junior guard Jakob Sigurdarson led the Panthers with 16 points.

BSC’s other game was much easier as they were never challenged at home against UNC Asheville, beating the Bulldogs 79-52. Junior center Shema Mbyirukira had a double-double in the victory, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Mbyirukira also added three blocked shots, giving him 51 blocks for the season.

The Panthers face possibly their toughest game of the season yet when they head to Lynchburg, Va., to take on Liberty Feb. 14. BSC won the first meeting between the schools, 67-63 in a game that the Panthers led throughout but remained close the whole way.

Liberty Flames (11-12, 8-3) Last Week: 2-0

Liberty pushed their season-high win streak to four games with victories over UNC Asheville and Coastal Carolina in the past week. In a mid-week battle at UNC-A, the Flames came out on top 82-68, led by a 23 point, eight rebound and seven assist effort by freshman guard Larry Blair. Sophomore walk-on guard Brian Woodson also had a big game, scoring 14 points and dishing out 10 assists for Liberty. The Flames closed the week with another rather easy victory as they stayed undefeated at home against Big South schools, beating Coastal 79-65. LU’s defense was the story of the game, forcing Coastal into 26 turnovers.

Liberty will remain at home all week to try and remain in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Flames open the week with a home game against last-place Charleston Southern Feb. 9 before taking on league-leader Birmingham-Southern on Valentine’s Day.

High Point Panthers (14-7, 7-3) Last Week: 1-0

It took an extra period and a miraculous three-quarter-court, alley-oop, turn-around, three pointer, but the Panthers were able to survive an upset bid by Charleston Southern at home this week, winning 81-78. High Point was never able to pull away from the Bucs, but a double-double by junior forward Danny Gathings and the energy from a record home crowd was enough to lift them to a victory. The win allowed the Panthers to remain in good shape to earn a high seed, and the accompanying home games, in the Big South tournament.

The Panthers have a busy week ahead, playing three games in a span of six days. HPU will open at home Feb. 9 against Coastal Carolina. Following that game, the Panthers will head south to face Winthrop Feb. 11 before returning home to battle UNC Asheville Feb. 14.

Winthrop Eagles (13-10, 7-5) Last Week: 2-0

A three-game losing streak left Winthrop in an unfamiliar spot in the standings this time of year, but the Eagles were able to bounce back with two victories this past week. It took a pair of strong defensive efforts and clutch three pointers by sophomore guard James Shuler for Winthrop to beat Coastal Carolina 51-50 and Radford 53-52.

In the home victory over Coastal, the Eagles battled back from a 16 point second-half deficit to win after Shuler drained an NBA-range triple with 13 seconds remaining and the Eagles down by two. Shuler again hit the big shot at Radford, this time breaking a 48-48 tie in the final minute with another long-range bomb. The Eagles were able to win the free-throw battle down the stretch to earn their second straight win.

Winthrop will try to avenge an earlier loss to High Point as they host the Panthers Feb. 11. Winthrop has never lost to High Point in the Winthrop Coliseum, winning all six previous meetings.

Radford Highlanders (10-11, 6-5) Last Week: 1-1

The Highlanders got revenge from an earlier loss to VMI, easily defending their home-court from the Keydets in a 63-46 victory. Sophomore guard Chris Goodin lit it up from the outside for RU, scoring a game-high 18 points. However, Radford was unable to avenge another early-season loss, as Winthrop became the first Big South foe to win in the Dedmon Center, beating RU 53-52. The Highlanders got a strong effort from junior guard Olumuyiwa Popoola, who led all scorers in the game with 14 points.

Radford will step out of conference action Feb. 11 to host in-state foe Longwood, a team transitioning from Division II to Division I. Afterwards, the Highlanders will get back into Big South play and head to the South Carolina lowcountry to face Charleston Southern Feb. 14.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (10-12, 5-6) Last Week: 0-2

A tough stretch in the schedule is proving difficult for CCU, as the Chanticleers have now lost three straight games, including two in the past week on the road. The Chants opened the week at Winthrop and controlled most of the game but fell on a late three pointer by Winthrop, losing 51-50. Coastal struggled to score after taking a 16-point second-half lead. Senior guard E.J. Gallup was limited to a season-low five points in the loss but bounced back with a strong effort later in the week against Liberty, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 boards. The Chants, however, were unable to capitalize on Gallup’s double-double and a strong performance by freshman forward Moses Sonko, 21 points and nine rebounds, as they lost to the Flames, 79-65.

Coastal finishes off its road trip Feb. 9 with a game at High Point. Later in the week, the Chants head back home and host VMI Feb. 14.

VMI Keydets (5-15, 3-7) Last Week: 0-1

The road woes continued for VMI, as they moved to 0-11 on the year in games away from home, losing to Radford 63-46 Feb. 4. All season, the Keydets have struggled scoring points, and the loss to Radford was no different, with only senior forward Radee Skipworth scoring in double-figures with 13 points. Freshman forward Matt Murrer also played well on both sides of the court, scoring eight points and grabbing eight rebounds, but it was not enough to earn the win at the Dedmon Center.

The Keydets have three games this week, opening with a non-conference tilt at James Madison Feb. 9. They will return home to face UNC Asheville Feb. 11 then hit the road again to take on Coastal Carolina Feb. 14.

UNC Asheville Bulldogs (5-17, 3-8) Last Week: 0-2

The Bulldogs were unable to duplicate the near-perfect game that they played against Radford two weeks ago and dropped two contests this past week, losing to Liberty and Birmingham-Southern. UNC-A opened the week at home but was unable to knock off Liberty, falling 82-68. The Bulldogs then had to trek all the way to Birmingham-Southern, and the road proved to be unkind as they fell to the league leading Panthers, 79-52. The biggest highlight of the week for UNC-A was freshman center C.J. Walker breaking the team’s record for most blocked shots in a season. After recording nine blocks over the week, Walker now has 77 blocks for the season, breaking the previous mark of 68 blocks, recorded in 1997-1998 by Robert Stevenson.

The Bulldogs have a pair of road games this upcoming week. On Feb. 11, UNC-A will head to VMI to battle the Keydets then head to High Point to face the Panthers Feb. 14.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (3-18, 0-10) Last Week: 0-2

CSU played well against two of the best teams in the Big South, but the Bucs ended the week still searching for their first conference win. The Bucs started the week at home against first-place Birmingham-Southern, losing 75-65. CSU was on fire early in the game and went to the half with 39-26 lead after senior guard Ed O’Neil drained a three-pointer at the buzzer. However, Charleston Southern was unable to stop the Panthers in the second half and was not able to leave the BucDome with the win. Later in the week, the Bucs fell in overtime to High Point 81-78. Junior forward Kurtis Rice scored 24 points to lead the way. Junior center Nathan Ball also played well, scoring a career-high twenty points.

The hard-luck Bucs face a pair of Virginia teams this week. The Bucs open the week at Liberty Feb. 9 before returning home to face Radford Feb. 14 to tip-off a three-game home stand.

     

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