Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Big 4-0-0 (BS Saturday)

Birmingham-Southern’s 73-69 victory Saturday over High Point was Duane Reboul’s 400th of his career. So it’s no surprise that the first question (or, more accurately, “somewhat rambling congratulatory gush with an implied question mark at the end”) in the post-game interview from justifiably joyful BSC radio man Kevin Henslee was about Reboul reaching that milestone.

“We’ve had some very good players, some very good teams, and some very good assistant coaches,” Reboul said, continuing with (and from here I’m paraphrasing), “The only reason I’ve ever won a game here is because Birmingham-Southern is such an incredible institution, these 6-7 guys with remarkable attitudes and work ethics and deadeye shooting just happen to wander into the gym. You think I taught them how to turn the ball over less than 10 times a game? Please. I’m a guy they found at the Arkadelphia laundromat, handed a nice suit and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coaching College Basketball” to, and stuck me on the sidelines. All I do at practice is roll out that cart thingy with all the balls on it, and sometimes I get distracted by my cool warm-up gear and forget to do that. Really, I got nothing to do with it.”

(Like I said, I’m paraphrasing.)

Of course, there have been hundreds and hundreds of college coaches who’ve expressed the same kind of Job-worthy humility when confronted with their own success. (Actually, probably all of them but John Thompson.) But the difference between the overwhelming majority of them and Coach Reboul (and Mike Perrin touches on this in his excellent feature in Sunday’s Birmingham News) is that Reboul means every word of it. Whether you’re listening to him over the radio, watching him roam the sidelines, or seeing him around campus, it’s clear that Coach Reboul is every bit the 100-percent-class guy people like Perrin and the people Perrin quotes say he is.

Which is why, when it comes to college hoops, a BSC fan is luckier than a horseshoed leprechaun. Unlike so many teams led by so many charlatans, we’ve got our guy. Sure, I was frustrated by the Big South performance last season. Yes, I was upset by the surprising early-round exits in the team’s last two NAIA national tourneys (which occurred during my four years on the Hilltop). But any alleged BSC fan who tells you anyone besides Duane Reboul should be our head coach is a fan of some other team wearing the wrong colors. And it was good, last night, to see that nice round number flip up on Coach’s odometer and have a reason to remember why.

Oh yeah, the game. 10 things:

1. Weird, weird ending to this one. It see-sawed for 32 minutes and was tied at 49 when BSC broke it open with a 16-0 run. It was still 68-52 lead with 2:30 to go when I thought, “This score will, as the football announcers say in Merrie Olde England, flatter the home side,” when irony seized its opportunity and High Point finished the game on a 17-5 run, the last six points coming on a pair of Mike Jefferson threes from somewhere near the concession stand. An accurate margin would be in the neighborhood of seven or eight points: BSC was the better team and the outcome wasn’t in doubt in the final minutes, but it wasn’t the mismatch the game up at the Millis Center was.

2. How much was great shooting and how much was poor defense I couldn’t say (Saturday night high school hoops playoffs meant I caught the game via Radio Free Birmingham), but last night was, let’s just say, not a time for masonry-based heckling. Combined shooting: 45-of-86, 52.3 percent. Combined three-point shooting: 21-42, 50 percent. Yowza. High Point was actually a little better on both counts, hitting 53.3 percent from the field and hitting 11 threes to BSC’s 10. The home team made it up, however …

3. …with their best performance of the season (I think) from the line. BSC shot 21-of-27 from the line, 14 more attempts and 11 more makes than High Point. Paul (72 percent on the year) and Collins (66 percent) combined to shoot 10-of-10.

4. Henslee and Reboul talked about the excellent job the BSC defense did on Easy AZ Reid, who scored HPU’s first six points and then only six the rest of the game. Solid job, true, keeping the ball out of his hands: Reid only took 10 shots and turned the ball over four times. But he did hit 6 of those 10 shots and as hot as his teammates were, some credit has to go to Reid for letting the looks go elsewhere, too.

5. You would have thought that the run-and-gun I Can’t Believe They’re Not Panthers would have gone all fidgety playing at BSC’s grind-grind-grind pace, but--as you can tell by the shooting numbers--HPU took to it like tall, athletic ducks to water. Something for Bart Lundy to think about as the kings of bumper-car basketball, the VMI Keydet Cops, come to High Point Wednesday?

6. Because of all the superfly shooting, there weren’t a lot of rebounds to be had—only 47 total in the game. But it makes me a little uncomfortable that at home, High Point grabbed three more than BSC did. And it makes me more uncomfortable that BSC’s tallest player, 6-9 Thomas Viglianco, didn’t grab any.

7. 21 points for James Collins on 6-of-12 overall and 4-of-7 from 3 shooting. A recent study showed that when Collins is hot, BSC becomes at least 94 percent more difficult to beat. (Side effects may include increased win totals and home Big South tournament games.)

8. Dwayne Paul also gets a gold star for his performance: only 9 points, but 5 boards, 5 assists, a block, a steal, and one turnover. Critical effort on a night when Sed Powe (8 points, but only 3 boards and 2 assists alongside 4 TOs) wasn’t his usual self.

9. I know Jerald Minnis is playing hurt, but HPU needs more out of the center position. On a night when Reid and the guards made enough shots for HPU to win with just a little help from the 5, Minnis and Konare finished with 2 points (Konare hit the only shot either took) and 4 rebounds (1 offensive) in 32 total minutes. Konare did have 3 assists, but during HPU’s lone dry spell (the 16-0 run that decided the game) the backcourt needed someone inside to step up and hit a shot or nail a put-back, and it didn’t happen.

10. Funny side effect of two teams with the same nickname playing each other: Game recaps featuring the phrase “the Black-and-Gold Panthers.”


Whatever their records might say, you have to admire the determination and fight shown by VMI and Liberty as they battle for ninth place and that coveted day off on Feb. 28.

The News-Advance’s recap chronicles in painful detail a series of blown layups by the Othern Southern as a way, I guess, of showing exactly how terrible the Flames must be to lose by 16 at home to those guys. (Chris Moore, it should be pointed out, has actually been very good.) Like “Weird” Al Yankovic and “Fast” Willie Parker, so Larry Blair should go ahead and have “Poor” attached to his first name. At least Liberty fans can console themselves with the comedic stylings of coach Randy Dunton: "The Flames have got some weaknesses," he said, and then he really got cooking. “When Larry Blair is not in rhythm offensively, those weaknesses get really magnified. The magnifying glass was pretty strong tonight--at about a power of 10.”

The good news is that they have VMI to hold hands with. The Keydet Cops weren’t actually that bad from the field against UNCA (40.6 percent, thanks in part to Matt Murrer finally taking more than five shots) but they did of course allow the Bulldogs to shoot 54.7 percent, so it evened out. Reggie Williams came off the bench for this game for his usual 0-for-4-from-3, 6-board, 19-points-the-hard-way performance, but as no media outlet seemed to care a whit about the game I couldn’t tell you why. (It’s a great story that Buzz Peterson is from Asheville, used to be a bulldog bellboy, and will coach Coastal there this week … but the Citizen-Times couldn’t have provided a story about the team’s win yesterday? I’m going to assume, after the Bucky McMillan thing, that something went awry between the print and web editions.)

If we learned anything else from these games, it’s that it’s a good year to be a Big South freshman with a last name ending in “-is.” UNCA frosh Michael Ellis followed up his 29-point outburst against BSC last week with a 25-point barrage on 10-of-13 shooting against VMI.

So which team finally gets that all-important ninth place and the early vacation? Liberty holds the tiebreaker at the moment by virtue of VMI’s win over Coastal Carolina, and although it’s hard to see either team getting another win at this point (VMI’s sole remaining home date is against Radford; Liberty hosts Winthrop and Coastal) VMI’s trip to Charleston Southern looks like the most likely remaining W. The bet here is that Liberty just nips the Keydets for the cellar.

I’ve got something special planned for Winthrop’s de-kiltsing of the Highlanders, so you’ll just have to wait for that.

*No box score available as of this post. Thanks, guys.

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