February 13, 2009

League picture is becoming clearer

The Big South Conference standings are starting to shake out a bit after this week's games.

The Big South Conference standings are starting to shake out a bit after this week's games.

VMI and Radford remain tied for first with 11-2 records, with the Keydets holding an edge by virtue of their win at Radford.

Liberty (9-5) is still third, while UNC Asheville (8-6), winner of three straight, has moved into fourth ahead of Presbyterian (7-6) and Gardner-Webb (7-7).

Winthrop (5-9) is hanging in at sixth, but is just percentage points ahead of Coastal Carolina (4-9).

High Point's win over Winthrop moved the Panthers (3-11) just ahead of Charleston Southern (2-10) for ninth. And that's the slot to watch right now, since the team finishing last in the standings will not make the conference tournament.

High Point coach Bart Lundy said his team is playing better, and he wishes the season "still had two more months." He still thinks the conference tournament is wide open.

"Unfortunately," he said, "we're still in a fight just to get into the tournament. But I'm proud of the way the team has progressed."

The road won't be easy for High Point or Charleston Southern, who split their regular-season series.

The Panthers go to Gardner-Webb, host UNC Asheville and close the regular season with a home game against Radford and road game at VMI. The Bucs host Liberty, Radford and Presbyterian, play at Winthrop, host Coastal and close the year at Gardner-Webb.

It's going to be tough at the top, too.

VMI plays four of its last five on the road, Radford has three of five away from home and Liberty three of four.

Gardner-Webb has the best closing slate -- the last four at home.

— THE 30-POINT MEN: High Point's Nick Barbour scored 31 points in the Panthers' 63-57 win over Winthrop on Wednesday.

The last player to get 30 or more on the Eagles was High Point's Akeem Scott on Feb. 23, 2006, but the Panthers lost that one, 94-78.

Liberty's Larry Blair dropped 37 on the Eagles in a 78-71 win Feb. 20, 2006, and Radford's Whit Holcombe-Faye, on Jan. 14, 2006, also had 37 in a 90-75 loss.

According to Mark Simpson with the Big South Conference, Radford's Doug Day holds the mark for points against the Eagles in league play, getting 41 on Feb. 6, 1993, in a 107-88 victory.

Barbour's 31 are the most points scored on the Eagles this season. Davidson's Stephen Curry scored 30 in a 97-70 win on Nov. 21.

— NOT SO FAST: It was reported in Thursday's edition that Winthrop's loss to High Point was its fifth straight in the league. The Eagles have lost five straight games, but only four in the league. The loss that started the streak was to Charlotte.

The Eagles have not lost five straight conference games since the 1997-98 season.

— END OF A STREAK: Winthrop's loss at High Point means the Eagles can finish no better than 9-9 in the conference, even if they win their four remaining games.

Winthrop had won at least 10 conference games for nine straight seasons, a Big South record.

— WHO'S THIS GUY?: Freshman Dexter Moore has led Coastal Carolina in scoring the past two games, netting 22 and 23 points. He has hit 17 of his last 32 shots, nine of his last 18 3-pointers and played 80 minutes.

Moore did not start a game since Dec. 3, and has started just seven games all season. He didn't play in the Jan. 24 home game with Winthrop.

In seven starts, Moore has averaged 11.1 points, shot 46 percent overall and 40 percent from behind the arc. But in double-figure games against Radford, High Point, Florida State and Cincinnati, he has averaged 19 points, shot 51 percent overall and 45 percent on 3-pointers.

— INJURY REPORT: It's late in the season and the injury report seems to be growing, and for some teams the losses are key players.

Winthrop lost point guard Reggie Middleton (broken fibula) for the year. The Eagles are 0-2 since he's been gone.

Coastal Carolina played the last game without point guard Mario Sisinni (ankle) and 6-foot-5 forward Anthony Breeze (ankle), and lost in overtime at Radford. Sisinni sprained his ankle while hitting the game-winning shot at High Point last Saturday.

Gardner-Webb's leading scorer, Grayson Flittner (knee), has missed the last four games, and the Bulldogs have gone 1-3. Flittner tweaked his knee against Coastal Carolina on Jan. 28 and is listed as day-to-day. Flittner is seventh in the league in scoring (16.5).

— LEADERS: Here's a rundown on some of the league's statistical leaders.

Scoring, VMI's Chavis Holmes (22.2); rebounding, Radford's Artsiom Parakhouski (10.9); shooting, Coastal Carolina's Joseph Harris (.567); assists, Radford's Amir Johnson (5.29); 3-point percentage, Charleston Southern's Jamarco Warren and VMI's Austin Kenon (.408); blocked shots, High Point's Cruz Daniels (2.71).

— 3-POINTERS: VMI (20-4) has tied the marks set by Winthrop in 2006-07 and Liberty in 1991-92 for the league team fastest to 20 wins. The Flames finished 22-7, while the Eagles set the league's single-season record for wins, going 29-5. ... VMI last won 20 games during the 1977-78 season. ... Gardner-Webb's Joshua Henley is the nation's top freshman rebounder, at 9.61 per game. ... Gardner-Webb plays at James Madison and Liberty goes to Old Dominion on Feb. 21 for the ESPNU BracketBusters weekend. ... Liberty has played five overtime games, tying the league record for most in a year. The five are the most ever during the regular season. Four of the Flames' OT games have gone to double OT, a league record. ... VMI is No. 12 and Liberty No. 23 in the latest Mid-Major top 25 poll.

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