Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Big (South's Big Upset) Monday

For once, you know, I just can’t lead with the BSC recap. The Panthers are super, thanks for asking. But somehow, with this post following the Big South’s biggest upset in recent memory, it just doesn’t feel professional …


You know, I already wrote something, sort of, about the possibility of this happening. Quoting my laughably misguided and error-filled Big South primer: “Poor Larry Blair--probably the conference’s best guard--could always drop 60 on Winthrop, hope the rest of his teammates got together for 20, get a terrible shooting night from the Eagles, and Liberty might still lose by 10.”

Now, I was writing about the Flyin’ Falwells winning at Winthrop in the crucible of the Big South tournament--not a home game two days after the Eagles got done surviving their Thrilla in Rock Hilla against NIU on BracketBusters Saturday. I would maintain that the former still falls somewhere around Date Movie winning Best Picture on the unlikeliness scale. But clearly, even if they do win the conference and advance to the NCAAs, Lord Winthrop is simply not the Big South team so many (yours truly obviously included) expected.

Which, in the JCCW’s take, was more evident Monday than in even the twin Eagles’ losses to Coastal. Whereas in those games there were grumbles about Winthrop’s dedication and effort, the consensus of Gary McCann’s take and the more sensible posts at and isn’t that Winthrop wasn’t trying. They just got beat.

And emotional double-overtime game two days prior or not, cape-tights-and-chest-logo-worthy performance from Blair or not, that shouldn’t happen. There’s no particular reason James Shuler (1-5, 9 points) is so much more prone to Houdini acts than last season, but he is. No particular reason a team with the likes of Shuler, Bradshaw, and Williams/McCullough that owned the glass last season should led in rebounding by Martin and out-boarded by Liberty, but they were. No reason Chris Gaynor managed to collect one assist in his 26 minutes, but he did. It’s not explicable, but it is what it is: a team that is Big South championship-caliber but is not invincible or dominant or even, perhaps, the Tournament favorite. (Who is is now, I would say, up for debate amongst the three top teams.)

OK, that’s more than enough negative stuff for a game that featured: 1. an Iverson-vs.-Carter-esque duel between Larry Blair (Tuesday's MMBOD) and Torrell Martin, who combined to shoot 24-of-43 from the floor, score 69 points, and even grab 14 total rebounds while they were at it. Blair earned his 37-32 edge at the stripe, where he went 10-of-11; 2. A remarkably clutch performance at the free throw line by the callow remaining Flames, who hit 14-of-17 (the Eagles went 21-of-28); 3. the Flyin’ Falwells’ freshman tandem of Anthony Smith (17 points, 7 boards) and up-and-down Evan Risher (11 points, 4 assists, 2 TO’s) coming good at the perfect time; 4. Randy Dunton: “I told them we should go out here right now and rekindle the little kid in us that really wants to go to the NCAA tournament and play with that kind of passion. So, hey, Larry comes out and scores five points to start the half, and the party's on.”

Why the mention of the NCAAs? ‘Cuz barring a second result as eye-popping as this one, Liberty’s now a part of the Big South tournament. The way VMI is playing, somehow, I don’t quite think BSC, Coastal, or (especially) Winthrop is about to get teary-eyed with joy for them.


You tell me: was Charleston’s 4-for-20 performance from beyond the arc indicative that BSC worked on and solved its three-point defensive woes, or just indicative that Charleston’s general cruddiness crudded things up for a night? Tell me something else: was Thomas Viglianco’s 4-for-4 performance from outside indicative that his road shooting woes are behind him, or was it thanks to CSU’s live-and-let-live defensive approach? What about Sredrick Powe taking seven shots (predictably, he hit six)--is this a new aggressive Master P or a one-game instance of taking what the defense gives him, in this case copious amounts of free rein?

So many questions, so few answers when you play a questionable team turning in a questionable performance. It’s going to be a long wait ‘til Saturday. (Bad for the fans, of course. but good for the team).

Until then, we BSC supporters (all seven of us) can console ourselves with these positives: 1. Collins’ hot streak finally cooled a bit (2-of-7 deep, 10 points), but it had to end sometime, and better now than Saturday. He also dished 3 assists without a turnover. 2. The Panthers dominated the defensive glass, grabbing 24 d-boards to CSU’s 11. 3. Holding the frightening Chris Moore to 12 points, all of them in the second half. (Due in part, as Geoff Wilson reports, to a fortunate delay in the arrival of the first media timeout.)

There was one whopping negative too, however: 21 turnovers, the team’s highest total of the season. (Ed Horton, who’s come down with a bit of the slumps lately, had 5 of them without an assist.) Unlike the other potential anomalies above, here's to hoping this is a fluke.


Welcome back, Easy A.Z. Reid. Because no one else in the league can fill out a line quite like you, we missed these kinds of 9-of-17, 22 points, 9 boards, 5 assists, 4 steals, 1 TO kind of nights, didn’t we guys?
Funny, I can’t hear the response from the UNCA crowd. But the Bulldogs have only themselves to blame for hopping on board the High Point "High Octane" Run-and-Gun Express. With the Misses Peacocks’ size and reasonable outside shooting, why would they willingly play an 80-possession game? I mean, yeah, it’s probably fun and all, but Chad Mohn (3-of-12) and Joe Barber (1-of-5 from 3) apparently don’t shoot so well after doing wind sprints up and down the court. Issa Konare, however, likes it just fine: when was the last time he shot 7-of-8 and scored 17 points? (Those 8 boards ain’t bad, either.)
Before the Loyola game, three of High Point’s previous four outings had been 1) blowout at Charleston 2) blowout at CCU 3) one-point last-second home win over VMI. Now, of course, they’ve come within a couple of plays of beating a MAAC team on the road and crushed a UNCA team that looked to be on the upswing last week. If Winthrop had their druthers, I suspect they’d choose a team that didn’t have such a mighty strong “second wind” look about them.


The most interesting thing about this game? Far-and-away Ian Guerin’s account of Buzz Peterson pulling a Coach Dale on the CCU sideline. Hopefully, he’ll take this to the point of playing with four players for a while against Liberty.
Also, Duggar Baucom apparently neither got the memo that it was Coastal’s Senior Night nor understood how the concept applied to his team, based on his, ahem, unusual starting five.
One other note: if Coastal somehow pulls out the conference’s top seed, Jack Leasure is your Big South Player of the Year. Combine his ridiculous three-point shooting (5-of-10 vs. VMI) with his equally ridiculous assist-to-turnover ratio during the Fakecock surge (4-to-1 Monday) and you get a ridiculously effective player.

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