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Chants try to focus without Holmes

The storyline to follow in Big South men's basketball comes from Coastal Carolina this week. Mike Holmes has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, CCU coach Cliff Ellis announced in a statement Monday. Holmes is a 6-foot-8 senior in his first season at the school.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Holmes sat out the first semester. The team was 7-2 without him and 7-0 since. Named the Big South Player of the Week after his first two games, he is averaging 14.0 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds per game in seven contests (six starts).

Holmes was dismissed from the South Carolina team early last season. The State newspaper of Columbia reported that Holmes was involved in a physical altercation with a teammate in the week before his dismissal by USC coach Darrin Horn.

Ellis told The Sun News in Myrtle Beach last month about a talk he had with Holmes when he transferred to Coastal Carolina: "I said, 'You've got one last opportunity. You've got to prove people wrong. And it is what it is. There apparently are some mistakes that are there, but you've got people like (former South Carolina coach Dave Odom) that believe in you. You're sitting in this office because of coach Odom. I don't know you, but I want to help you achieve the goals in your life, and I want you to make something of yourself.'"

RUFFLED FEATHERS -- Winthrop plays at Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m. on Thursday. In addition to Holmes, the Chants' will be without reserve guard Willie Kirkland, who is academically ineligible. He will miss the rest of the season.

MAKING THE LIST -- Ellis became the 10th active coach and 26th overall to win 600 career Division I games when the Chanticleers defeated Liberty Saturday night, 70-67, in Lynchburg, Va. He is 600-381 in Division I games.

INJURED -- Presbyterian's Al'Lonzo Coleman left Saturday's game against UNC Asheville with an injury. He had six points and three rebounds before getting hurt just nine minutes into the game.

HONORED -- UNC Asheville's Matt Dickey was named the conference's Player of the Week. He averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals in two road wins last week. Dickey scored 19 in Asheville's 88-67 win at Winthrop and then scored a team-high 16 points in the Bulldogs' 74-48 win Saturday at Presbyterian College.

Liberty's John Caleb Sanders scored a career-high 16 points in 16 minutes against Coastal Carolina on Saturday to earn Freshman of the Week honors. He went 6-of-8 from the field, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Sanders scored seven straight points at the end of the first half to close the gap to four at halftime, then knocked down a 3-pointer late in the game that put Liberty within two points with nine seconds left.

TOUGH ROW TO HOE -- Through games of Jan. 2, Winthrop had the No. 1-ranked non-conference strength of schedule, according to Collegiate Basketball News, one of the main RPI reports used by the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee. Entering this week, Winthrop is No. 4 in the category.

TRIPLED -- Liberty junior guard Jesse Sanders notched his Big South-record third career triple-double on Jan. 6 against Charleston Southern. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against the Buccaneers.

BIG WINS -- UNC Asheville has won its three Big South games this season by at least 20 points, all on the road. The Bulldogs first won by 20 points at Radford (Dec. 2), then did it in back-to-back games last week -- winning by 21 at Winthrop (Jan. 6) and 26 at Presbyterian College (Jan. 8). The 26-point margin against the Blue Hose was the biggest Big South Conference road victory in school history. Asheville is the first Big South member since Winthrop last season to win back-to-back conference road games by at least 20 points.

STREAKS -- Coastal has won 12 straight games. Gardner-Webb, under first-year coach Chris Holtmann, has lost eight in a row.

THEY SAID IT -- "I don't think there was anything we should have done differently. I wish the lead wasn't as big as it was (10 points with 1:23 left). That was our first loss. I'm not sure it has affected our confidence." - Liberty guard Evan Gordon on his team's 70-67 loss to Coastal Carolina at the Vines Center on Saturday. Both teams were undefeated in the conference.