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Southern Conference Notebook

February 25, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Southern Conference Notebook

by Paul Oren

Bracket Buster

Two SoCon teams were featured in the made-for-TV ESPN Bracket Buster on Saturday. Created with the idea of giving Mid-Majors a chance to beef up their RPI and an opportunity to play on national television, this year’s installment provided plenty of intrigue for East Tennessee State and College of Charleston.

ETSU (23-4, 14-0) traveled out West to play the struggling Fresno State. The Bulldogs were 10-9 when the Bracket Buster match-ups were announced on February 2nd, but have since lost four of their last six. The Bucs started the game out on 10-0 run and had a lead of 43-28 with 16:55 remaining, seemingly coasting to victory, but a 21-6 Bulldog run tied the game at 49 with a little under nine minutes left in the game. ETSU kept their composure and never let Fresno gain the lead, including during the waning moments of the game when the Bucs missed the front end of two separate one and ones, only to grab the offensive rebounds. Sophomore Tim Smith finally put the game away with two free throws with 7 seconds remaining to win it 66-62. Smith had a game-high 26 points. Zakee Wadood (13 points/11 rebounds) and Jerald Fields (13 points/13 rebounds) both added double doubles.

Charleston (18-7, 10-4) was featured on ESPN 2 at Western Michigan in their part of the Bracket Buster. The Broncos brought in a 16-game home-winning streak that has lasted over a year, and the Cougars nearly ended it. Western led for most of the second half, with it’s biggest lead being 11, but the Cougars came back to take the lead at 69-67 with 2:15 left. After running clock, Thomas Mobley hit a free throw to make it 72-70. After a near steal by Charleston that turned into a jump ball, possession went back to Western and Anthony Kann hit a shot at the buzzer from near the free-throw line to send the game in overtime. In the extra session, the Broncos fed off the crowd’s momentum and the play of Reggie Berry, who scored half of his 10 points in overtime. Charleston had a shot to tie the game at 81, but Marcus Johnson missed a baseline three-pointer and Ben Reed hit two more free throws to give the Broncos an 83-78 victory.

Every game counts

Following Georgia Southern’s victory last week over SoCon foe, College of Charleston, Eagles coach Jeff Price was guardedly optimistic about what the victory meant.

“Our win at Charleston means nothing if we lose one of these next ones.”

Coach Price and the Eagles now face that reality after a tough 80-79 loss to UNC Greensboro (9-15, 6-8) Saturday night in Statesboro. Ronnie Burrell continued his hot play for the Spartans with 27 points and 9 rebounds. Burrell has led the team in scoring and rebounding in three out of the last four games and was a perfect 10 of 10 from the charity stripe while the team shot 82% from the line. Georgia Southern (19-6, 10-4) was led by Frank Bennett’s 23 points. The Eagles had a chance to win the game after a three-pointer by Jean Francois and a steal by Terry Williams; however they were unable to get off a shot attempt.

Player of the Week:

Maleye Ndoye – Furman 6-10 Senior (Dakar, Senegal)

Ndoye led Furman in scoring in all three of their victories that give the Paladins a chance to move up into third place in the South Division. In the game against Wofford, Ndoye scored 2 of his game-high 25 points when he hit the game-winning 17-foot basket. On the week, he averaged 21.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists a game.

Freshman of the Week:

Matt Nowlin – Elon 6-4 freshman (Roanoke, VA)

The sure-shooting Nowlin helped Elon break a two-game losing streak with his game-high 20 points, including 6 three-pointers when the Phoenix knocked off Western Carolina 68-53. Nowlin was recruited for his shooting, and he has not disappointed, attempting 205 three-pointers this season. In earlier games this week, Nowlin scored in double figures both times, averaging 14.6 points and 3 rebounds a game.

Team-By-Team Capsules

North Division

East Tennessee State (23-4, 14-0)

The Bucs have won all 15 games they’ve played in the 2004 calendar year, including the SoCon clinching victory over The Citadel on Feb. 16 73-51. ETSU’s last defeat came December 30th at the hands of American in the Rainbow Classic. The Bucs have a tough stretch to end out their regular season, hosting 2nd place Chattanooga on the 24th, before traveling to Charleston to play the Cougars in a nationally televised game (ESPN2) on the 28th.

Tennessee-Chattanooga (16-9, 9-5)

The Mocs face a test before the conference tournament when they travel to SoCon Regular Season Champion, ETSU. In the first meeting, Chattanooga had the Buccaneers on the ropes with a 17-point lead, but ETSU came back and with a late steal, preserved the victory. Ashley Champion led all scorers with 22 points. The Mocs clinched the second seed and a first round bye in the North with their 74-49 victory over Appalachian State. It marks the eighth time in the last nine years that UTC has been the first or second seed in the North Division.

Elon (10-16, 6-8)

Elon took a big step towards post-season success with a 68-53 victory over Western Carolina on Saturday. Matt Nowlin led the way with 20 points and a strong defensive effort held Kevin Martin, the nation’s leading scorer, to 12 points. The Phoenix control their own destiny to finish third in the North in which they would draw The Citadel in the first round of the SoCon tournament. The Bulldogs have yet to win a conference game this season. It will not be easy for the Phoenix as they travel to Statesboro to play South Division leader, Georgia Southern, before they end the regular season at home against UNC-Greensboro in what has the potential to have huge seeding implications.

UNC Greensboro (9-15, 6-8)

The Spartans recovered from their upset loss to Appalachian State to knock off South Division leader Georgia Southern 80-79. Ronnie Burrell averaged 28 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last week. Senior Jay Joseph is 10 points away from breaking the career scoring mark that is held by former teammate James Maye (1998-2003).

Western Carolina (12-13, 5-9)

The Catamounts had a rough week with losses to both Furman (72-63) and Elon (68-53). Part of the reason is that junior Kevin Martin was held to 12 points in both losses, his lowest outcome of the season since a 10-point effort against Charleston. He has scored in double figures every game this season. Martin was named to the Second Team of the All-District 5, voted on by members of the National Association of Basketball coaches. Along with Martin, nine players from the ACC were selected to the 10-player team that is now eligible to be an NABC Division 1 All-American that is voted on at the conclusion of the season.

Appalachian State (9-18, 4-10)

The Mountaineers ended an 8-game losing streak last week when they knocked off UNC Greensboro 82-60. Chris McFarland led the way with 20 points and the defense held Jay Joseph to only 2 baskets. McFarland and company was unable to capitalize on any momentum by falling by 25 to Chattanooga. The Mountaineers close out the season against Davidson and Western Carolina. The game against the Catamounts could determine whether or not Appalachian State can get out of last place.

South Division

Georgia Southern (19-6, 10-4)

While they dropped an 80-79 contest to UNC Greensboro that could’ve put some distance between the Eagles and Charleston, there is still a good chance for Georgia Southern to clinch the South Division. The reason? Charleston has to play ETSU, and the Eagles already have. The Eagles will honor four seniors in their final home game Monday night against Elon, and then close out the regular season against The Citadel on Saturday. A slip-up, and Georgia Southern could fall as far as third in the conference, and more importantly, relinquish a shot at a first round bye.

College of Charleston (18-7, 10-4)

Charleston will find out if a trip out of conference will cost them this week when they finish their regular season against Furman on Wednesday and a huge home game against ETSU on Saturday. It will be the Cougars second Saturday on ESPN2 in as many weeks. Charleston needs to win out and have some help in order to clinch their sixth South Division title in a row. They have won their division every year that they have been in the SoCon.

Davidson (14-11, 9-5)

The Wildcats have a huge week in front of them. Armed with a chance to win the South Division if a few things go their way, they travel to Appalachian State for a Wednesday game and then host Furman in the regular season finale on Saturday. It will be perhaps the biggest SoCon game Davidson has played since they beat Furman in the 2002 Tournament Championship game.

Furman (15-10, 7-7)

The Paladins took a big step up forward last week by beating Western Carolina and The Citadel. If they can get by a tough Charleston team on Wednesday, Furman has a finale against Davidson that could push them up to third place. Furman dropped a 5-point decision to Charleston earlier this season, a game in which they battled back after falling behind 21-2.

Wofford (8-17, 4-10)

Wofford has clinched the 5th seed in the South and will open the SoCon tournament against the 4th seed in the North, which will not be determined till the final day of the regular season. Howard Wilkerson recorded his 7th double double in the Terriers only game of the week, a 73-63 point loss to Davidson.

The Citadel (4-20, 0-14) – The Bulldogs have lost 13 games in a row and are looking to avoid going winless in conference, only two years removed from finishing 17-12 overall. The final week of the regular season features traveling to Wofford and a finale with Georgia Southern in Charleston. The Bulldogs will honor two seniors (Max Mombollett, Erick Wilson) on Saturday night.


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