Childers praises BSC heading into tournament

Winthrop women's basketball coach Bud Childers has a bright future in politics if he ever decides to leave the bench.

Before taking any questions during the Big South Conference Tournament teleconference, Childers asked if he could have a minute of his own.

"The league, has been interesting,'' said Childers, who has done a masterful job rebuilding the Eagles. "Congratulations to Carey (Green, Liberty's coach) on title and the No. 1 seed.

"Five of our seven teams have at least a .500 or better record. The conference season was more like as sprint than a regular conference season. It's been hard to play on another team's floor and win.''

Winthrop has been a major player in the BSC's success. The Eagles finished the regular season at 19-11 and got the tournament's No. 3 seed. They play Charleston Southern on Friday at 7 p.m. in the opening round at UNC Asheville's Justice Center.

The Eagles' 19 wins are the most for the women's team since it moved up to Division-I 20 years ago. Winthrop also set school records for most home wins (10), most road wins (8), most wins at a neutral site (tournaments, 1), conference wins (7) and non-conference wins (12).

Childers said he was recently told his team had one of biggest turnarounds in the nation. Last year's team was 6-26, but won its opening game at the BSC tournament for the second straight year.

"Each (BSC tournament) match-up looks like a great game,'' Childers said. "We've had a chance to regroup and look forward to getting back.

"Charleston Southern's guards, Pam Tolbert and Natalie Caldwell are very good. Shaunte Small provides outstanding senior leadership. We know we are in for a real tough one on Friday.''

Childers also slung some praise Liberty's way in closing. Childers said he talks to a lot of coaches on a regular basis and that they feel Liberty is one of the nation's top-notch teams. If the Lady Flames happen to slip and not win the championship, Childers believes they should get an at-large invitation.

"If I were voting, I'd have Liberty in the top 25,'' he said. "I can't imagine 30 teams better than Liberty, if not better in our tournament.

"I know that the Big South Conference is considered a one-bid league. We know we've got to play well and catch people not playing their best. But our kids know if they play well, they can compete with the best.''

• LIBERTY: Redemption is the key word for Liberty coach Green and his Lady Flames.

For only the eighth time in conference history, there will be a first-round bye and that went to Liberty for winning the regular-season title. Liberty is 31-6 in the BSC tournament and has won the title 10 times. But last year, the Lady Flames were knocked out by Radford in the semifinals round.

UNC Asheville, the No. 4 seed, beat second-seeded Radford 67-57 for the title.

"We want to redeem ourselves,'' Green said. "We are seeking March Madness magic that UNC Asheville captured last year.

"We are a better team this year and if I could pinpoint why and put in a bottle and sell it, I'd get out of coaching. This year's success was conceived from some pain last year. We have senior leadership; didn't have it last year, wasn't as clearly defined.''

Green said he's uncertain about the status of Rebecca Lightfoot, a 6-2 junior forward, who has a sprained knee.

"I'm undetermined if she will play and we are taking it day-by-day,'' Green said. "She wants to play. We've talked to her and her family, and if it's nothing serious and she's able to play, she will play.''

Liberty finished 26-3 and 11-1 in the conference, the lone loss coming against Winthrop.

• CHARLESTON SOUTHERN: Coach Julie Goodenough said the best word to describe her team's 2007-08 season that produced an 8-21 overall record and a 3-9 conference record is "inconsistency.''

Goodenough has relied heavily on seven freshman players. She said they have played well in some games and have not shown up for others.

One of those youngsters should be a familiar name to basketball fans in this state. She is Crystal Robinson, a 5-foot-10 freshman forward. She played for Hunter-Kinard-Tyler, which was knocked out of the Class A playoff quarterfinals last season by Indian Land.

Robinson led her team to the Class A state championship as a junior. She is averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

"Crystal Robinson is a very talented freshman,'' Goodenough said. "She's learning what it takes to be competitive at this level. Her defense has picked up the last couple of weeks.

"She's had good games for us and is difficult to guard. She's a defensive stopper and rebounds well.''

• COASTAL CAROLINA: Coach Alan LeForce's team is the tournament's fifth seed for the second consecutive year.

This year's team is laden with sophomores and freshmen -- with only three seniors and one junior on the roster.

"I don't think in my career I've ever had that many young people I was counting on,'' LeForce said. "We've been up and down, don't always play well.

"We've had lapses in games, several where we would go four or five minutes without scoring a basket. That has hurt us, but we have played some very good basketball at time.''

Coastal (16-11, 4-8 BSC) opens the tournament against No. 4 High Point (14-14, 6-6 BSC) on Friday at 2 p.m.

"It's March, and if you not excited about going to tournaments and playing basketball, maybe you shouldn't be playing,'' LeForce said. "There are five or six teams capable of winning our tournament.

"High Point shot 44 percent both games against us. We were in the mid 30s. We do a good job on defense, but we have to do a better job of getting back (on the break).

n NOTES: Friday's game will be the fifth time in eight years High Point has faced Coastal Carolina in the opening round. Coach Tooey Loy said his team has not lost three in a row nor won three in a row all season. The Lady Highlanders had 13 days off before returning to practice on Wednesday ... Radford (21-10, 8-4 BSC) is the No. 2 seed for the second straight year. Coach Jeri Porter's squad is the conference's oldest team, with two senior and two junior starters. But freshman Taleia Moton, a 5-4 guard from Fort Washington, Md., has been the special player the team needed. Moton led the team in scoring average at 13.6 ... Defending tournament champion UNC Asheville coach Betsy Blose said she lost three key players to injuries this season. Among them was Kyla Jones, a 5-10, sophomore guard was averaging 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds. Blose has dressed as few as seven players. Ashton Barton, a 5-8 senior guard, passed the 1,000 career points mark this season.

Justice Center, Asheville, N.C.


First Round

Game 1: No. 4 High Point vs. No. 5 Coastal Carolina, 2 p.m.

Game 2: No. 2 Radford vs. No. 7 UNC Asheville, 4:30 p.m.

Game 3: No. 3 Winthrop vs. No. 6 Charleston Southern, 7 p.m.



Game 4: No. 1 Liberty vs. Game 1 winner, 6 p.m., SportsSouth

Game 5: No. 2/No. 7 winner vs. No. 3/No. 6 winner, 8:30 p.m., SportsSouth



Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 2 p.m., SportsSouth