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Southern Conference Notebook

March 4, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Southern Conference Notebook

by Paul Oren

SoCon Game of the Year

In a simply amazing finish to a game featuring two of the best that the Southern Conference has to offer, College of Charleston held on to defeat East Tennessee State 91-89 in Charleston. Mike Benton tipped in an errant three-pointer with 6 seconds left to give the Cougars the win. Tim Smith of ETSU then dribbled the ball off of his foot, but the Buccaneers got one last chance after an inbounds pass from Charleston hit the overhead scoreboard, but it was not to be as Jerald Fields missed a runner at the buzzer.

Charleston jumped out to a 14-0 lead and it wasn’t until 5:06 into the game that the Bucs made their first field goal. ETSU got within 9 in the first half, but the Cougars still took a 46-35 lead into the locker room.

In the second half, ETSU rallied to cut the lead down to 6, only to be answered by another Cougars run that pushed the lead back up to 80-63 with six minutes left. That’s when ETSU started playing like the Southern Conference champs and went on a 26-9 run to tie the game at 89 before Benton came through with his heroics in front of the largest crowd in the history of John Kresse Arena.

The loss meant no perfect season for the Buccaneers who also saw their chances of an NCAA At-Large bid fade away.

“Obviously you don’t start league play thinking you’re going to go 16-0,” remarked ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “But once we were 8-0, 9-0, everyday we started talking about having the chance to go 16-0, but then we’d always bring it back to today, we’ve got to practice well today, we’ve got to play well tomorrow. When we had that chance, bottom line, we got beat by a very good team.”

The victory was important for Charleston Head Coach Tom Herrion.

“It validates the fact that we are a good basketball team, our kids have a strong belief in who we are, and obviously gaining momentum and confidence that a lot of coaches want to have heading into the conference tournament.”

SoCon Game of the Year II

Heading into Saturday’s match-up, the battle for the Number 3 seed in the North came down to Elon and UNC Greensboro. Three would be the imperative number, as it took three overtimes for the Phoenix to hold on to a 112-108 victory.

“Both teams gave great winning effort,” said Elon coach Ernie Nestor. “Only one team could win the game, which is the unfortunate part of games like that because it was really a hell of a basketball game and we were just pleased to come out of it.”

The game was a true battle as it featured 18 ties and 24 lead changes. Montell Watson had a career-high 23 points for the Phoenix, before spraining his ankle. Ronnie Taylor also set a new career-high with 27 points to lead the Spartans.

It was Taylor who nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into the first overtime. In the first extra session, Taylor continued his heroics by hitting another three-pointer with 33 seconds left to tie the game at 87 and send it on to the second overtime. Then in then second overtime, down 3, Taylor was fouled shooting a three-pointer and he made all three free throws. With the game tied and 3 seconds on the clock, Taylor made a two-point basket, only to have his heroics upheld by Scottie Rice who sent the game into a third overtime by making a basket at the buzzer. Taylor was able to close out the game with another three-pointer, but it was after Elon went on a 9-1 run to secure the victory.

“Anytime you ever walk off the court after a game like that, where a number of different players made big plays, at both ends of the floor, that’s all I ever ask of them,” remarked UNC Greensboro head coach Fran McCaffrey. “It was unfortunate that one team had to lose, but you have to give credit to Elon, they made some phenomenal plays, but that’s what’s expected in this conference. That’s what makes this one of the best conferences in the country.”

SoCon Post-Season Awards

Coaches

East Tennessee State’s Zakee Wadood was voted as the SoCon 2003-2004 Player of the Year according to the coaches. Wadood averages 14.8 points a game and a league-high 7.8 rebounds and 2.83 steals. This is Wadood’s third selection to the All-Conference team, and the first ETSU player to win POY since Dimeco Childress in 2001-2002.

Joining Wadood on the All-Conference team include teammates Tim Smith and Jerald Fields, Georgia Southern’s Frank Bennett and Terry Williams, Thomas Mobley (Charleston), Kevin Martin (Western Carolina), Brendan Winters (Davidson), Ashley Champion (Chattanooga), and Maleye Ndoye (Furman).

First-year head coach Murry Bartow was voted as the leagues Coach of the Year. Bartow took over for Ed DeChellis, who left for Penn State before the beginning of last season. Bartow led the Buccaneers to a 24-5 regular season record, 15-1 in conference, and the 2003-2004 regular season SoCon championship.

Furman placed three players on the SoCon All-Freshman team including Freshman of the Year, Quan Prowell. Prowell is second amongst freshman scorers at 10.1 points per game. Prowell is joined by teammates Moussa Diagne and Robby Bostain, Elon’s Matt Nowlin, and from The Citadel, J’mel Everhart.

Media

For once, the coaches and media were on the same page, as the Southern Conference Sports Media Association voted ETSU’s Zakee Wadood as the 2003-2004 SoCon Player of the Year. Wadood, Tim Smith (ETSU), Kevin Martin (WC), Brendan Winters (Dav), and Ashley Champion (UTC) make up the 1st Team All-Conference. Amongst the top 10 players, the only difference between the media had from the coaches was the inclusion of Elon’s Jackson Atoyebi instead of Terry Williams from Georgia Southern.

The media also voted Quan Prowell (Furman) and Murry Bartow (ETSU) as Freshman and Coach of the Year respectively.

Team of the Week

The Citadel Bulldogs

The Citadel won both games last week by a score of 68-65; their only conference wins of the season. To start off the week, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 34-21 halftime lead at Wofford, and withstood a furious Terrier rally, yet never lost the lead or their composure. Several days later against Georgia Southern, the Citadel looked nothing like a last place team, coming out of the gates with a 10-2 lead and trailing only once in the second half. Down 1 with 18 seconds left, Senior Max Mombollet hit a lay-up to give the Bulldogs the lead for good. The Citadel enters the conference tournament with plenty of momentum.

Player of the Week

Tim Smith 5’9 Sophomore Guard, East Tennessee State

Smith played the role of the leader quite well on the regular seasons champs, and despite losing their first conference game of the season, it was Smith who kept the Buccaneers in it and nearly gave them the victory. Smith averaged 27 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in the two games against top-level SoCon competition (UTC and Charleston).

     

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