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Big South Notebook

February 23, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big South Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Dunlap

Tournament is Taking Shape

The conference tournament starts in a week and the positioning among the teams continues, but the picture is starting to become a little clearer in regards to seeding and the location of the games. Liberty has locked up the top seed and will host any game the Flames play in the Big South tournament. They will host Charleston Southern in the first round, as CSU cannot catch up to anyone else in the league and will finish last. The only other team that is sure of its seeding is VMI, which will hit the road in the first round as the seventh seed.

High Point and Winthrop are tied at 9-6 right now with one game each. They are assured of having the second and third seeds, with High Point winning a tiebreaker if they should end up tied. So if High Point can win at VMI Feb. 25, the Panthers will lock up the second seed. That leaves Radford, Coastal Carolina, and UNC Asheville fighting for the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds. Radford only needs one win in their final two games to clinch the fourth seed.

Player of the Week

Charleston Southern point guard Ed O’Neil had a strong week, leading CSU to a 1-1 record and setting a career-high scoring mark in his last home game for the Bucs. O’Neil averaged 18.5 points, 5.5 assists and 3.5 steals over the two games, including the career-high 21 points in CSU’s loss to Winthrop Feb. 21.

Team Reports

Liberty Flames (14-13, 11-4) Last Week: 1-1

Liberty managed to win only one of its two games this week, snapping a seven-game winning streak in the process. But the one win, a 74-62 victory at Winthrop, was enough to clinch the top seed in this year’s Big South Tournament. After the win against the Eagles, the Flames may have had a bit of a let down as they lost at VMI 61-52 Feb. 21. Freshman forward David Dees was the key to the Flames’ win against Winthrop, hitting all four of his three-point attempts on his way to a 16-point performance. Dees also led the Flames in scoring against VMI with 15 points.

Liberty will step out of conference play Feb. 25 and travel to Southern Conference foe UNC-Greensboro before finishing their conference slate with a home game against Radford on Feb. 28. That game will mark the last regular-season home game for seniors Ryan Mantlo, Gabe Martin, Jason Sarchet, Louvon Sneed and Glyn Turner.

Birmingham Southern Panthers (18-7, 10-4) Last Week: 1-1

Birmingham-Southern split their two games this week, falling at conference foe High Point 63-62, then beating out-of-conference opponent Savannah State at home, 92-72. Senior forward Grant Davis missed a layup opportunity at the buzzer that would have given the Panthers the win at High Point. Davis did score a team-high 14 points and gathered nine rebounds though. The Panthers improved their play in their next outing, though, winning easily over Savannah State behind a 20-point outburst by junior guard Jakob Sigurdarson.

BSC will close out their season, barring an unexpected NIT bid, with a pair of home games against Radford and VMI. The VMI game will mark the final home contest for seniors Davis and Derrick Williams.

High Point Panthers (16-10, 9-6) Last Week: 2-0

The Panthers control their destiny for the tournament’s second seed because they were able to scrape together a couple of one-point victories this past week, beating Birmingham Southern 63-62 then winning at Radford 58-57. In the win over BSC, junior forward Danny Gathings missed a pair of free throws late in the game, but Birmingham Southern missed a layup at the end to give HPU the victory. Gathings redeemed himself at Radford as he nailed two free throws with the Panthers down by one with five seconds remaining to clinch the victory over the Highlanders.

High Point only has one game this week, a road battle with VMI Feb. 25. A win in that game or a Winthrop loss to UNC Asheville later in the week will give HPU the second seed, otherwise they will have the third seed.

Winthrop Eagles (15-11, 9-6) Last Week: 1-1

The Winthrop Eagles were unable to stay alive for the top seed as they hosted Liberty and lost 74-62. However, the Eagles bounced back with their most impressive conference outing of the season, winning at Charleston Southern 72-48. Senior forward Marcus Cooke continues to be the most consistent contributor for Winthrop, scoring 15 against Liberty and 13 against CSU. Senior forward Tyrone Walker and sophomore center Billy Houston both broke out of their offensive slumps in the victory over CSU, with Walker scoring 20 and Houston scoring 15.

It will be Homecoming and Senior Day at the Winthrop Coliseum in Winthrop’s only contest of the week when they host UNC Asheville Feb. 28. Cooke and Walker will join fellow seniors Gabe Leventis and Elijah Holland in their last regular-season home game.

Radford Highlanders (12-13, 7-7) Last Week: 1-1

The Highlanders were finally able to get their first road conference victory with an 84-75 win at Coastal Carolina, but they fell at home in their next contest, losing to High Point 58-57. In the win over the Chanticleers, the Highlanders were led by the outings of sophomore forward Chris Goodin (18 points) and sophomore guard Whit Holcomb-Faye (13 points and 13 assists). Holcomb-Faye had another solid outing against High Point, leading the Highlanders with 19 points, but a late foul called on senior forward Aaron Gill allowed High Point’s Danny Gathings to hit the game-winning free throws with five seconds remaining in the contest.

Radford will close out its regular season on the road with games at Birmingham Southern and Liberty. A win in either game will lock up the fourth seed for the Highlanders.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12-14, 7-8) Last Week: 0-2

The Chanticleers were in the driver’s seat for one of the top four seeds in the conference coming into the week, but a pair of losses has left them in the fifth spot, looking for help to move any higher. The Chants opened the week with an 84-75 loss at home to Radford Feb. 16. They followed that up with a loss on the road to UNC Asheville by the count of 72-68. The losses were not because of the play of senior guard E.J. Gallup, who scorched the nets for 33 points against Radford and 24 points against UNC-A.

Coastal has only one game remaining, a home match up with Charleston Southern Feb. 28. It will be Senior Day for Gallup, Antwan Green, Kelvin Coggins, Anthony Susnjara, Brandon Newby, Mihai Raducanu and injured Clint Reed.

UNC Asheville Bulldogs (8-17, 6-8) Last Week: 1-0

The Bulldogs are on a three-game winning streak after winning their only game of the week, a 72-68 homecoming win against Coastal Carolina Feb. 21. Sophomore forward Oliver Holmes scored a career-high 21 points in the victory. Junior forward Bryan McCullough also had a very strong outing, scoring 15 points, dishing out six assists and getting seven steals. Sophomore guard Omar Collington chipped in with 15 points as well.

UNC-A finishes its regular season with a home game against Charleston Southern and a road battle at Winthrop. The Bulldogs will have the sixth seed in the conference tournament unless they can manage to win their final two contests and have Coastal Carolina and/or Radford lose their remaining games. If that happens, the Bulldogs could climb up to the fifth or even fourth seed.

VMI Keydets (6-19, 4-10) Last Week: 1-1

A depleted VMI team struggled as it fell at Charleston Southern 64-49 Feb. 16 before shocking the league and a regional television audience with a 61-52 win over first-place Liberty on Feb. 21. Despite a sore ankle, senior forward Radee Skipworth was able to be a key contributor in both contests, scoring 23 points against CSU and 14 against Liberty. Freshman guard Matt Coward also played well, especially in the win over the Flames, leading the Keydets with 17 points. Skipworth and senior Richard Little were also honored before the Liberty game in Senior Day festivities.

The Keydets will have their final home game of the year as they take on High Point Feb. 25. They will finish their regular season three days later as they travel down to Birmingham to face the Birmingham Southern Panthers.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers (5-20, 2-12) Last Week: 1-1

The Buccaneers had two different games this past week at home, dominating VMI 64-49 Feb. 16, but getting dominated by Winthrop 72-48 later in the week. As mentioned near the top of this Notebook, senior guard Ed O’Neil played well in both games, including a career-high 21 points against Winthrop. Junior center Nathan Ball also played well, scoring 10 points against VMI and grabbing nine rebounds in the loss to Winthrop.

The Bucs finish their season away from home, playing at UNC Asheville Feb. 24 and at Coastal Carolina Feb. 28. CSU is also one of the few teams that knows who they will be playing to open the Big South tournament as they will travel to Liberty in the first round on March 2.


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