Atlantic Sun Conference Notebook
by Darren Lowry
Two Schools Join A-Sun
With the conference set to lose four schools in the next two years, there was no secret that the A-Sun was going to have to replace them sooner rather than later. On Jan. 5, the A-Sun announced that Kennesaw State University, located in a northern Atlanta suburb, and North Florida, located in Jacksonville, would both join the conference in the fall of 2005.
The two schools will join East Tennessee State next season as the incoming schools that will replace outgoing Georgia State, Troy, and Central Florida.
Both schools have records of recent athletic success.
Kennesaw State has won five NCAA Division II championships in their ten years in the conference, including 2003-2004 titles in women’s soccer and men’s basketball.
North Florida has won five consecutive Peach Belt Conference Commissioner’s Cups for overall athletic excellence.
Reason for Concern, Reason for Hope
Jacksonville has been in a downward spiral of late, first dismissing starting center Joey Robinson for the season for violating team rules, then dropping their next three games.
However, their key forward, Haminn Quaintance, has been playing much better of late, racking up double-doubles in three straight games, and recently setting new career highs in points and rebounds.
After starting off the season undefeated in A-Sun play, it was inevitable that the Bulldogs (8-5, 5-1) would eventually lose a conference game, but their solid play early in the season has earned them the top spot in the A-Sun. Their start has been stark contrast from a year ago, when the school struggled to be consistent and finished with just nine wins on the season. The team remains undefeated in six games at home this season.
Forward Brian Bender leads the A-Sun in scoring, averaging 19.1 points per game, and teammate Tim Jennings leads the league in steals with 2.8 per game.
Gardner-Webb embarrassed Lipscomb 72-55 at home on Jan. 3, mostly on the strength of holding Lipscomb to just 1 for 15 on three-point shooting for the game. The Bisons shot less than 37 percent for the game.
Jennings had a great game, netting a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds to go along with 6 assists and 6 steals. He leads the league in the latter category, averaging 3 per game. Bender also added 15 points, and forward Simon Conn also had a double-double, getting 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs then held off a late rally by visiting Belmont, winning at home 79-75 on Jan. 5. Gardner-Webb was ahead 72-62 with 3:07 to play, when Belmont cut the lead to just four with 1:40 left. However, that’s as close as the game got, as the Bulldogs held on for the win.
Bender led all scorers with 27 points to go along with a game-high 14 rebounds, and Conn also chipped in 20 points and 8 boards. Jennings, a guard, also had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Despite shooting just 38 percent from the floor, the Bulldogs squeaked out a 69-66 home win over Campbell on Jan. 7. The contest between the A-Sun’s leading team and basement team was surprisingly close, mirroring the parity in the conference this season.
Bender led all scorers with 22 points, and Conn added 12 points and 9 rebounds. Guard TJ McCullough had 10 assists on the game, but did not score.
Gardner-Webb finally suffered their first A-Sun defeat of the season at Troy on Jan. 10, falling 77-71 despite overcoming a 14 point halftime deficit to take a one point lead with 1:15 to play. A late Troy basket followed by two technical fouls made up the late scoring differential. Bender led the Bulldogs with 21 points, while Conn added 18 and Jennings chipped in 11.
The Bulldogs will look to continue their strong play when they head to Georgia to play Mercer on Jan. 15 and Georgia State on Jan. 17.
The Bruins (5-8, 4-1) currently sit in sole possession of second place in the A-Sun, matching the school’s best start in A-Sun play.
Guard Justin Hare is looking like the runaway A-Sun freshman player of a year at this point in the season. He is playing important minutes for the team, and has been named the A-Sun player of the week twice this season already. He is averaging nearly 9 points a game along with 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
Belmont nearly pulled of an upset of Auburn on Dec. 30, but ultimately were unable to pull ahead of the Tigers in Alabama, and fell 73-69. The Bruins outscored Auburn 45-41 in the second half, but that was not enough to make up the deficit. Forward Dan Oliver led the Bruins in scoring with 15 points, with center Andrew Preston netting 12 and guard Justin Hare scored 10 points.
Belmont then defeated Campbell on the road in overtime on Jan. 3, making 75 percent of their shots in the extra period to put up 23 points for the win. Guard Josh Goodwin scored 9 of his game-high 18 points in overtime to lead the Bruins to victory. He also added 7 steals and 3 assists on the game. Guard Jese Snyder also had 16 points, and Preston added 7 points and 6 blocks.
Belmont came to within 4 points of knocking off the current A-Sun leading Bulldogs, but were unable to defeat host at Gardner-Webb 79-75 on Jan. 5. The Bruins rallied from a 10-point deficit to pull within 4 before time expired. Preston led Belmont with 19 points and 5 rebounds, and forward Will Peeples added 13.
Guard Brian Collins made 1 of 3 free throws after being fouled during a three-point attempt to put the Bruins ahead with just 3 seconds left to lift Belmont to a thrilling win over Mercer 74-73 on Jan. 8. Collins had 17 points on the game, and also added 7 rebounds and 4 assists, while Hare chipped in 15 points.
The Bruins capitalized on poor Panthers shooting to defeat Georgia State 59-46 at home on Jan. 10. The Bruins held the team to the lowest opponent scoring output since Air Force managed just 38 points in game last season. Snyder led the Bruins with 12 points, and Collins added 11 points, 6 points, and 4 assists.
Belmont will hit the road to take on Stetson on Jan. 15 and Jacksonville on Jan. 17.
The Bears (8-4, 4-2) are slowly creeping up the A-Sun standings, recently moving up to third place after knocking off previously second-place Lipscomb. Guard Damitrius Coleman continues to lead the NCAA in assists, averaging 8.5 per game.
Mercer defeated Savannah State 98-81 on Dec. 30, dominating the winless Tigers in the second half 59-43. The Bears led the game by as much as 19 points in the half. Guard James Odoms led the team with 19 points, and forward Wesley Duke had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Coleman added 11 points and 8 assists.
Mercer then played in a thrilling triple-overtime contest with Florida Atlantic, falling 104-101 at home on Jan. 3. The Bears had plenty of opportunity to win the game, as they were just 23 for 40 from the free throw line. Coleman managed a triple-double in the loss, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Odoms led all scorers with 30 points, adding 10 rebounds of his own. Duke also got a double-double, getting 20 points and 11 boards.
Reserve guard Ross Alacqua had a career night to lead Mercer over UCF 80-71 on Jan. 5. Alacqua, who has only been averaging 11 minutes a game for the Bears, scored 26 points in just 21 minutes of play, making 6 three pointers and hitting all 6 of his free throws. Forward Will Emerson earned a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Duke earned a double-double for a third straight game, scoring 12 points to go along with his 11 rebounds.
Mercer then suffered another heart-breaking last-second loss to an A-Sun opponent, falling at Belmont 74-73 on Jan. 8 on a last-second free throw. Guard Jacob Skogen hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 73 with 34 seconds remaining, but a Belmont free throw with 3 seconds left cost the Bears the game. Odoms finished with 25 points and 9 rebounds, and Coleman had 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2 points in a losing effort.
The Bears will return home to host Campbell on Jan. 13 and Gardner-Webb on Jan. 15.
Even after a loss to Mercer dropped the Bisons (8-4, 3-2) from second place to fourth, the team is still performing far above expectations this year, and still has plenty of momentum that could carry them into the playoffs this year.
Lipscomb lost an ugly game with Gardner-Webb 72-55 on Jan. 3, as the Bisons shot just 36 percent from the field, and were just 1 for 15 from long range in the game. Center Shaun Durant was really the lone bright spot for the Bisons in the game, scoring 17 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Brian Fisk did score 11 points on the game, but was harassed by Bulldogs guard Tim Jennings all game, limiting Fisk to just 4 of 17 shooting on the night.
The Bisons rebounded by getting a come-from-behind victory at Campbell 60-56 two nights later. Lipscomb held the Camels scoreless over the last five minutes of the game, using that time to turn a five point deficit into the win. Fisk scored 22 points in the game, but still shot just 6 for 17 from the floor. Guard Brandon Hartwell added 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in the contest.
Lipscomb scored another come-from-behind win over the Panthers 59-57 at home in overtime on Jan. 8. Fisk tied the game with 0.4 seconds left, and forward Matt Jarboe hit the go-ahead three-pointer to seal the game. The two teams scored just a combined 6 points in the extra period. Fisk had 19 points in the game, and Durant had 6 points and 14 rebounds. Jarboe only had 7 points on the game, but none were bigger than the 3 he scored in overtime.
Despite leading at halftime 50-43, the Bisons dropped a home match-up with Mercer 82-73 on Jan. 10. Lipscomb went cold in the second half, making just 8 baskets, after sinking more than double that in the first half. Guard James Poindexter had 28 points, mostly on the strength of 7 three-pointers. Fisk added 12 points and 6 rebounds in a losing effort.
The Bisons will begin a three-game road series at Jacksonville on Jan. 15 and Stetson on Jan. 17.
The Trojans (5-9, 3-2) have rebounded from a poor start to win four of their last five games, including ending Gardner-Webb’s undefeated A-Sun run with a home victory on Jan. 10.
The Trojans were unable to upset New Mexico in the final round of the Lobo Invitational, losing to the hosts 88-66 on Dec. 29. Troy fell behind in the first half after the Lobos had an 11-0 run late in the first half, giving New Mexico a 44-27 lead at the break. Forward Corey Hornsby led Troy with 19 points, and also added 7 rebounds. Guard Bobby Dixon chipped in 13 points and 6 assists in a losing cause.
Troy rebounded to defeat Jacksonville 87-76 on Jan. 5, using a 15-2 run in the second half to open up a 13 point lead that the Dolphins were unable to overcome. Two Trojan players had career nights, as guard Jacob Hazouri, and forward Eddie Baker scored 29 and 28 points, respectively. Hornsby also made a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
The Trojans used a similar high-scoring run to defeat host Stetson 56-53 on Jan. 7. Trailing 19-18 late in the first half, Troy went on a 16-2 run to build up a 13 point lead, and managed to hold off a late Hatters rally in the closing minutes. Hazouri led all scorers with 15 points, and Dixon added 10 points and 7 rebounds in the win.
The Trojans then beat the previously unbeaten Bulldogs 77-71 at home on Jan. 10, when a Hornsby lay-up gave Troy a two-point lead with six seconds remaining. Troy had led the game by as much as 17 in the second half, but ultimately were able to hold off a Gardner-Webb rally. Hornsby scored a career-high 26 points on the night to go along with 5 rebounds. Baker and Dixon each added 16 points.
Troy will host Georgia State on Jan. 13, then will begin a Florida swing with a stop at UCF on Jan. 16.
The Owls (3-9, 3-2) were unable to secure a victory in their non-conference schedule, but that hasn’t mattered to them, as they have picked up two overtime wins in their last three games to leap into sixth place in the A-Sun.
Forward Mike Bell picked up the A-Sun’s player of the week award after hitting the game-winning shot against Mercer in a thrilling triple-overtime victory, and was also instrumental in the Owls’ other overtime win over Stetson.
Florida Atlantic’s last non-conference game ended in disappointing fashion, as the Owls blew a 41-36 halftime lead to ultimately fall 81-75 at home on Dec. 30. Guard Quinton Young led the team with 17 points, while guard Kahleaf Watson had 16 points, 5 assists, and 4 steals in a losing cause. Bell finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds.
The Owls then outlasted Mercer in a triple overtime classic 104-101, when Bell hit a key three-pointer that secured the victory for the team. Florida Atlantic prevailed despite shooting an abysmal 45 percent from the free throw line in the game. Each of the team’s starters finished with 11 or more points in the game. Bell led the team with 29 points, and also had 15 boards in the contest. Forward Fred Marshall also earned a double-double, getting 11 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Rodney Webb had 14 points, while Young added 22, while Watson managed 13 points and 8 assists in the win.
The Owls then lost a heart-breaker to host Georgia State, falling on a buzzer-beater to lose 75-73 on Jan. 5. Florida Atlantic had just tied the game with five seconds remaining before the final shot. Bell narrowly missed out on another double-double, finishing with 23 points and 9 rebounds. Marshall was the only other Owl in double-digits, ending the game with 11 points.
Florida Atlantic outscored Stetson 14-2 in overtime to put away the Hatters 81-69 at home on Jan. 9. Neither team played an impressive game, as the two teams combined for 37 turnovers in the game. Bell earned a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Marshall had 10 points and 7 rebounds, and Young had 17 points. Reserve guard Tywain McTyer only scored 6, but he also had 10 assists in just 21 minutes of play.
Florida Atlantic will continue their five game home stand when they host Jacksonville on Jan. 11and UCF on Jan. 13.
After starting strong, the Golden Knights (9-4, 2-3) have recently been victimized by several badly-timed, long scoring droughts in their games, which seem to occur right after the team builds up a lead.
UCF held off a late Fordham rally in the closing minutes to salvage a 65-61 victory at the UCF Holiday Classic on Dec. 29. The Golden Knights won despite going nearly six minutes without a basket early in the second half, allowing Fordham to catch up. Guard Gary Johnson led UCF with 14 points, and guard Justin Rose had 8 rebounds to go along with his 5 points.
Two separate unanswered scoring runs by Georgia State again victimized the Golden Knights, as UCF ultimately fell to the host Panthers 76-63 on Jan. 3. An 8-0 run preceded by a 10-0 run by Georgia State gave the Panthers a 43-30 lead at the half, and despite an 8-0 run by UCF at the start of the second half, the Golden Knights could not overtake their opponents. Forward Anthony Williams led the team with 21 points, and Johnson added 12 in a losing effort. Center William Bakanowsky nearly had a double-double, finishing with 9 points and 9 rebounds.
Two days later, UCF dropped an ugly contest with host Mercer 80-71. Except for a brief 47-46 lead with about 12 minutes remaining, the Golden Knights were playing from behind for most of the game. Forward Joshua Peppers scored a team-high 15 points, and Johnson added 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Rose also chipped in 12 points.
In an up-and-down affair, UCF finally prevailed over Jacksonville 75-57 at home on Jan. 9. The team blew a 50-39 lead by allowing the Dolphins to tie the game at 52, before pulling away with a 19-3 run in the final minutes to secure the victory. Five players scored in double digits for UCF, with forward Marcus Avant leading the way with 14 points. Peppers and center Adam Gill each had 11, while Johnson and Bakanowsky both had 10.
UCF will host Stetson on Jan. 11 before traveling to take on Florida Atlantic on Jan. 13.
No doubt a little bit homesick, the Hatters (4-8, 2-3) nonetheless scored an upset win over Georgia on Dec. 31, its first victory over an SEC team in more than 20 years, and its first win over Georgia since 1936. The victory came at the end of a brutal six-game road trip that saw the team get beaten by several major programs.
Stetson upset host Georgia 56-52, mainly because Georgia was just 2 for 17 on three-pointers. The team led 23-20 at halftime after scoring 6 points in 40 seconds to close out the half. Stetson’s starters accounted for all 56 of their points. Guard Anthony Register led all scorers with 22 points, and forward Karl Hollingsworth had 14 points and 6 rebounds.
Stetson then scored a come-from-behind win over the host Dolphins 68-63 on Jan. 3. Jacksonville led 38-34 at halftime, and led for most of the second half. However, a late rally put the Hatters ahead for good 63-61 with 1:35 to play. Guard Will Holloman, who sunk a pair of key free throws in the closing seconds to help secure the victory, had 14 points. Guard E.J. Gordon also scored 14, but he also added 16 rebounds. Register and Hollingsworth each had 12 points.
The Hatters were unable to overcome another deficit at home against Troy, falling 56-53 to the defending league champions on Jan. 7. Stetson clawed all the way back to 51-49 with 38 seconds left in the game, but could not force overtime. Hollingsworth led Stetson with 14, while forward Boris Djordjic netted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Register chipped in 13, and Gordon added 12.
Stetson then was outmatched in overtime at Florida Atlantic, falling 81-69 on Jan. 9. The Hatters were out-scored 14-2 in the extra period in a game dominated by sloppy play and lots of turnovers. Hollingsworth had 18 points, while Gordon added 17 points and 7 rebounds and Register had 14 points.
The Hatters will complete their trip through Florida when they take on UCF on Jan. 11, before heading to Tennessee to play Belmont on Jan. 15 and Lipscomb on Jan. 17.
The Panthers (5-9, 2-4) have been a Jeckle and Hyde team this season. The Panthers are undefeated at home, going 4-0 in Atlanta. However, the team is a pathetic 1-9 on the road, including a conference-worst 0-4 road A-Sun record. Georgia State clearly must become more consistent if they are to move up.
The Panthers were blown out by Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech squad 98-56 on Dec. 29. The Red Raiders doubled their 18-point lead to start the second half, putting the game far out of reach early on. Guard Malcom Manier led all scorers with 24 points, and forward Marcus Brown added 15 in the losing effort.
The Panthers easily disposed of UCF 76-63 at home on Jan. 3, using several unanswered scoring runs to overwhelm the Golden Knights. Georgia State never trailed after taking the lead midway in the first half. Forward Kevin Thomas led all scorers with 25 points. Brown added 14 points, and Manier chipped in 10.
The Panthers then defeated Florida Atlantic in thrilling fashion, winning on a buzzer-beater by guard Boyd Copeland. Georgia State used a 27-9 run to take a 40-37 lead before the exciting ending. The game-winning shot was Copeland’s only points of the game, although he did add 6 assists. Brown led all scorers with 26 points, while Thomas had 16 points and Manier netted 15. Center Sylvester Morgan scored 11 points to go along with his 5 blocks. He leads the league in blocks, averaging 2.6 per game.
The Panthers then spoiled their chance to secure their first road win of the season by allowing the Bisons to come from behind to win 59-57 in overtime on Jan. 8. Georgia State led the game by as many as 10 points in the second half before Lipscomb tied things up with 0.4 seconds left in the game. Brown missed two free throws with 1 second left in the extra period that would have sent the game to a second overtime. Brown led the Panthers with 18 points, and Copeland had 10. Morgan added a double-double, netting 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Georgia State then was victimized by poor shooting against Belmont on Jan. 10, falling on the road 59-46. The Panthers shot just 35 percent in the contest. Brown was the only Georgia State player in double digits, managing 12 points in the loss.
The Panthers will try to break their road curse when they take on Troy on Jan. 13, before beginning a four-game home stand with games against Campbell on Jan. 15 and Gardner-Webb on Jan. 17.
Despite ending their non-conference schedule on a positive note with a win over Eckerd, the Owls (5-6, 1-3) dropped to second-to-last place in the A-Sun with three consecutive losses, and seem to be in a state of disarray.
Prior to their win over Eckerd, Jacksonville dismissed their starting center, Joey Robinson, from the team for violating team rules. He was averaging 5.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and was also eighth in the league in blocks with 1.8 per game.
On a bright note, forward Haminn Quaintance seems to have found his game again after struggling earlier this season, posting career highs in points and rebounds in a loss to the Trojans on Jan. 5. He currently leads the league in rebounding, averaging 9 rebounds per game.
The Owls used a 14-1 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 12-point lead over the Eckerd Tritons with 59 seconds to play, and held on for a 71-65 win at home on Dec. 29. Jacksonville held Eckerd to just 31 percent shooting on the night, while the Owls made over 48 percent of their shots. Guard Aubrey Conerly scored a career-high 16 to lead the Owls, and also added 5 assists on the night. Guard David Lee also netted 16 points for the team. Quaintance again had a solid game, narrowly missing out on another double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds to go along with 5 blocks.
Jacksonville then dropped a close contest with Stetson 68-63 at home on Jan. 3. The Owls led for most of the game, including a 38-34 lead at the half. The Hatters tied the game at 61, then took the lead for good 63-61 with 1:35 remaining in the game. Jacksonville was just 4 for 23 from three point range for the game. Guard Antonio Cool led all scorers with 22 points, while Quaintance added another double-double, grabbing 16 rebounds to go along with 11 points. Lee chipped in 12 points as well.
Despite career highs in points and rebounds from Quaintance against Troy, the Owls fell then fell to the Trojans at home 87-76 on Jan. 5. Overall, Jacksonville played a sloppy game, committing 20 turnovers and missing half of their free throws. Quaintance posted 26 points and 21 rebounds in the losing effort, with Cool getting 14 points and guard Jesse Kimbrough adding 12.
Jacksonville then lost a 75-57 effort at UCF on Jan. 9 that saw the Dolphins held to just one field goal in the final seven minutes of the game. After coming from behind to tie an early deficit mid-way through the second half, the Dolphins allowed a 19-3 run by UCF put the game away. Quaintance had a double-double for the third straight game, getting 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Lee was the only other Jacksonville player in double digits with 11 as well.
The Dolphins will try to regroup when they take on intra-state rival Florida Atlantic on the road on Jan. 11 and host Lipscomb on Jan. 15 and Belmont on Jan. 17.
The Camels (2-10, 0-5) are struggling to find wins this season, and currently find themselves in the A-Sun’s basement. However, there are signs that the team’s fortunes could be changing. In each of their five conference games this year, the margin of defeat has grown smaller and smaller each game, meaning Campbell might be close to picking up their first A-Sun win of the year.
Campbell’s 82-50 loss at Kentucky on Dec. 29 was a notable one, as Wildcats coach Tubby Smith earned his 200th victory at the school. The Camels were purely dominated in the game, scoring just 11 points in the first half. After Smith put in his bench players in the second half, however, Campbell actually started out-playing the Wildcats’ reserves, going on a 20-3 run to bring the score to 51-33 before Kentucky’s starters re-entered the game. Guard Anthony Atkinson led the Camels with 14 points, and added 4 assists. Forward Comerlee Poole added 9 points and 9 rebounds, while forward Dominique Klein grabbed 10 rebounds and scored six points.
The team then fell to Belmont 78-71 in a high-scoring overtime at home on Jan. 3. The two teams scored a combined 39 points in the extra session, compared to just 51 in the first half. Guard Ruell Pringle led Campbell with 16 points. Klein narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Forward Maurice Latham scored 14 points to go with his 6 rebounds.
Campbell then lost to Lipscomb 60-56 at home on Jan. 5 in a rather sloppy game that saw neither team make 40 percent of their shots and 25 percent of their three-pointers, and featured a combined 34 turnovers. Pringle and forward Diego Aguiar each had 15 points, with Aguiar finishing with 6 rebounds to Pringle’s 5. Klein again reached double-digits in rebounds with 10.
In their closest A-Sun contest yet, the Camels fell to league-leading Gardner-Webb 69-66 on Jan. 7. Despite the loss, the Camels held the Bulldogs to under 40 percent shooting from the floor, marking the third game in a row that Campbell has done that to an opponent. Pringle led Campbell with 20 points and 5 assists. Klein also scored 12 points and had 6 rebounds, and Poole added 12 points and 9 boards.
The Camels are moving in the right direction. They’re getting contributions from a number of players of offense, and are starting to come together defensively as a team. They may not be as far out in the playoff picture as their record might suggest.
The team will head to Georgia to play Mercer on Jan. 13 and Georgia State on Jan. 15 to see if they can put everything together for their first A-Sun win of the year.