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Big South Notebook

February 17, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big South Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Dunlap

Getting that First Win

Charleston Southern has spent the last two weeks flirting with victory but coming up just short time and time again. A last second tip-in by Radford, an overtime miracle shot by High Point, and a second-half comeback and overtime win by Liberty all kept CSU from getting into the win column recently, pushing the Buccaneers’ conference record to 0-11 and overall record to 3-19.

However, it only seemed like a matter of time before they would break through for a win, and when they did, they exploded. On Valentine’s Day, Radford visited CSU and from the start, Charleston Southern dictated the action and ended up winning easily 71-46. The win broke an 11-game losing streak, the longest for Charleston Southern in 24 years, when they had a 17-game losing streak en route to a 2-23 record during the 1979-1980 season.

Battle for First

Also on Valentine’s Day in Lynchburg, Va., Birmingham Southern took on the home-standing Liberty Flames in a battle between the top two teams in the Big South so far. In their first meeting of the season, Birmingham Southern led throughout in a close game that BSC won 67-63. In Saturday’s meeting, it started close, but Liberty went on a run late in the first half and never looked back, winning 91-72, which ties them with Birmingham Southern at the top of the Big South standings with a 10-3 conference record. The win also went a long way in helping LU get the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament as the Flames built a two game lead over the rest of the league. Birmingham Southern is unable to compete in the tournament.

Player of the Week

Charleston Southern’s improvement can be greatly attributed to junior forward Kurtis Rice’s improvement, and he had a big part in CSU’s taking league leader Liberty to overtime and CSU’s win over Radford. During the week, Rice averaged 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, which was enough to earn Rice Player of the Week honors.

Team Reports

Birmingham Southern Panthers (17-6, 10-3) Last Week: 0-1

When Birmingham Southern is not shooting well from outside, they can be beaten, and that was the case in their only game of the week, as they lost to Liberty 91-72. The normally sharp-shooting Panthers only hit 3-of-13 shots from behind the arc, mostly because of Liberty’s tenacious defense. Junior center Shema Mbyirukira had some success inside, scoring a team-high 17 points, but it was not enough to lead the Panthers to victory.

The Panthers look to bounce back from their loss and keep their NIT hopes alive as they travel to High Point Feb. 16. Later in the week, they will step away from conference action by hosting Savannah State Feb. 21.

Liberty Flames (13-12, 10-3) Last Week: 2-0

Liberty increased its winning streak to six games with a pair of victories this past week, though the two wins came a little differently than expected. Against last place Charleston Southern, the Flames struggled and trailed most of the way, before pulling out a 71-67 overtime win. First place Birmingham-Southern then came to town in a game that was expected to be close, but Liberty took control late in the first half and cruised to victory, winning 91-72. Senior guard Gabe Martin was a huge factor in the big win over the Panthers, nearly getting a double double with 21 points and eight rebounds.

To keep their winning streak intact, the Flames will have to win on the road. Liberty will travel to Winthrop Feb. 18, then head to VMI Feb. 21. A pair of wins will also clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Winthrop Eagles (14-10, 8-5) Last Week: 1-0

The return of freshman guard Torrell Martin turned out to be great news for the Winthrop Eagles, as they rode his 18 points, all in the second half, to a 78-67 win at home against High Point. The Eagles also had another great showing from senior forward Marcus Cooke, who scored a career-high 24 points and contributed with six rebounds and four steals. The win avenged an earlier 77-62 loss to the Panthers suffered in January.

Winthrop has a chance to put a little pressure on league-leading Liberty, as they battle the Flames at home Feb. 18. After that, the Eagles hit the road to face Charleston Southern Feb. 21.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12-12, 7-6) Last Week: 2-0

The Chanticleers looked like they were spiraling out of control, losing three straight coming into this week, but a pair of solid games, even without senior guard Brandon Newby and senior center Mihai Raducanu in the lineup, gave Coastal two wins this week. Coastal opened up the week at High Point and had an easy time of it, winning 73-52. Senior guard E.J. Gallup led the way with 19 points and six steals. The Chants then returned home and put the defensive clamps on VMI, winning 60-44. In their two games against the Keydets, Coastal Carolina only allowed an average of 38 points per game.

Coastal looks to end a 13-game losing streak to Radford as they host the Highlanders Feb. 16. Following that game, the Chants will take to the road to face UNC Asheville Feb. 21.

High Point Panthers (14-10, 7-6) Last Week: 0-3

It was a very rough week for High Point as they dropped three games and from near the top of the standings to the middle of the pack in a matter of just a few days. The Panthers opened the week at home, looking lackluster in a 73-52 loss to Coastal Carolina. Junior center Jerry Echenique missed the game with a bad ankle, which probably did not help matters, though his replacement, junior Patrick Hilliman, did score 14 points and grab nine rebounds. Echenique returned for High Point’s other games of the week, but it did not matter. The Panthers fell on the road to Winthrop 78-67 and then lost at home to UNC Asheville, 78-73.

It will be senior night for the Panthers as they open the week with their final regular season home game against Birmingham-Southern Feb. 16. Brent Halsch and John Stonehocker are the only two seniors on the roster. High Point will then hit the road for their final games, starting at Radford’s Dedmon Center Feb. 21.

Radford Highlanders (11-12, 6-6) Last Week: 1-1

Radford stepped away from conference play for a night, having a relatively easy time beating Longwood at home, 84-61. Sophomore forward Chris Goodin led the Highlanders with 18 points. The road got much more difficult though, as the Highlanders visited last-place Charleston Southern. Radford was never in the game and lost 71-46, pushing RU’s conference road record to 0-5. Radford only shot 18 percent in the first half and 29 percent for the game. Only two players reached double figures, as sophomore guard Andre Bynum and freshman forward Reggie McIntyre both scored 10 points.

Radford will take on Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C., Feb. 16, looking to get that first conference road win. Afterwards, RU will close the week with their final home game of the season, hosting High Point Feb. 21. It will be the final regular season appearance at the Dedmon Center for seniors Aaron Gill and Matt James.

UNC Asheville Bulldogs (7-17, 5-8) Last Week: 2-0

The road has traditionally been a difficult place for UNC Asheville, but not this past week, as they won a pair of road games. The Bulldogs opened the week at VMI, winning 59-51. Sophomore forward Chad Mohn’s 16 points and freshman guard K.J. Garland’s seven assists led UNC-A. The Bulldogs then went to High Point, prevailing in a close game, 78-73. Junior forward Bryan McCullough scored a team-high 14 points and sophomore guard Omar Collington chipped in with 12 points, including a late four-point play to help lead UNC-A to the victory.

UNC Asheville only has one game to worry about this week. The Bulldogs will play host to Coastal Carolina Feb. 21, looking to avenge a 73-65 loss that they suffered to the Chants earlier this year.

VMI Keydets (5-18, 3-9) Last Week: 0-3

It did not matter if they were playing a Big South team, or someone from out-of-conference, nor did it matter if they were at home or on the road as the Keydets could not find a way to win any of their three games this past week. They opened the week at James Madison for a non-conference tilt, and despite a 26-point, 12-rebound effort by senior forward Radee Skipworth, the Keydets fell 76-65. Home was not much friendlier, as VMI then fell to UNC Asheville at Cameron Hall, 59-51. VMI closed the week on the road, losing to Coastal Carolina 60-44.

The Keydets look to snap their four-game losing streak on the road at Charleston Southern Feb. 16. VMI will be back at home Feb. 21 to challenge the Liberty Flames.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (4-19, 1-11) Last Week: 1-1

As mentioned at the top of this Notebook, CSU had been flirting with victory but finally realized it this past week, with a 71-46 win at home over Radford, which followed a tough 71-67 overtime loss at Liberty. Junior forward Kurtis Rice earned Player of the Week honors with an 18-point, eight-rebound effort against the Flames and a double double against the Highlanders. Senior guard Ed O’Neil also played well, averaging 11 points and 6.5 assists over the two games.

The Bucs will look to build on their first conference win as they host VMI Feb. 16. Later in the week, CSU will have its final home game, where O’Neil will be honored as the only senior on the team.

     

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