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USC Aiken and Area JUCO Standouts Get Early Start on the College Hoops Season

USC Aiken dropped a pair of games last weekend in the SBC Hall of Fame Classic. More Division I teams get set to start tonight.

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Tim Williamson (left), Faison Brock (top right), Drez McBride (bottom right)

USC Aiken dropped a pair of games last weekend in the SBC Hall of Fame Classic in St. Joseph, Missouri. The four team tip off classic was the first sign of official NCAA basketball for the 2019-20 season as many Division I teams get set to start their schedules tonight, and the rest of Division II will tip off this Friday. NJCAA (junior college) play also began last Friday, when, as was the case with USC Aiken’s opening games, lots of action with a local flavor took place in the two-year college space.

Aiken began its difficult early season schedule with a pair of losses

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Xzavier Barmore (USC Aiken) is a preseason first team All PBC player.
The Pacers – who finished last season as the Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament runners up, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, amassed a 27-6 record and spent most of the season ranked in the top 10 – entered this year as the #17 ranked team in the NCAA.com preseason poll. Its opponents last Friday and Saturday in Missouri are also highly regarded as Davenport, Friday’s opponent, was ranked #13, and West Texas A&M, Saturday’s foe, was listed as the #5 team in the same poll.
In Friday’s 77-68 loss to Davenport, the Pacers played without Faison Brock, one of two returning seniors who were highly productive members of last season’s squad. And Xzavier Barmore, the team’s other key returning veteran, only made 2 of his 17 field goal attempts in the loss.

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Faison Brock (USC Aiken) scored 22 points in Saturday’s loss.
Saturday’s outing started much better for the Pacers because Brock made his first appearance less than 5 minutes after tip off and proceeded to lead the team in scoring with 22 points. And despite another slow start by Barmore (3 first half points), Aiken led most of the first half before falling behind 38-35 at the break. But a better second half (12 points on 6-11 shooting) by Barmore was not enough to stop West Texas A&M, which was paced by Joel Murray’s game high 27 points, from maintaining a double digit lead for most of the second half.

More stiff competition ahead of Aiken

Things won’t get easier for USC Aiken because this weekend the Pacers will play Friday against Tusculum and Saturday against Lincoln Memorial, which entered the season ranked #9 in the NCAA.com poll and #6 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) rankings. Lincoln Memorial, a perennial South Athletic Conference (SAC) power, will host the two day tournament. And when the Pacers finally return to the area for their first game of the season at the USC Aiken Convocation Center on November 16, their opponent, #23 Florida Southern, will be another team that entered the season ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA.com preseason poll.

Local talent makes a mark during the first weekend of junior college action

USC Salkehatchie, home to four highly accomplished area players, won a pair of games last weekend after entering the season ranked #18 in the NJCAA preseason poll. The Indians topped Georgia Highlands 102-98 Friday in overtime before knocking off South Georgia Tech Saturday 76-68. The games were part of the Cape Fear Classic at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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Drez McBride (January, 2017)
In the two games combined, sophomore Drez McBride, who transferred from McCook Community College in Nebraska after starring for Butler High School, scored 33 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished 8 assists. McBride has blossomed into a Division I player since graduating from high school in 2018, and the athletic lefty with a smooth stroke and crafty ball handling skills has received scholarship offers from UNC Asheville, Albany, Hampton and, most recently, Illinois State.

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Kevin Williamson (January, 2017)
Another sophomore with local ties, Kevin Williamson, a former Aiken High (class of 2018) star who recently committed to Coastal Carolina, scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the two games combined. And former Lincoln County standout Ahmad Rand, a sophomore who received offers from Tulsa and Grambling after leading the nation in blocked shots last season, logged a total of 13 rebounds and swatted away 7 shots in the two games combined.

Tim Williamson named player of the week after scoring 37 in a win

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Tim Williamson (Andrew College)
Former Glenn Hills (and Hephzibah before that) standout Tim Williamson, now a sophomore at Andrew College, scored 37 points in his team’s season opening 88-85 victory over New Rock Prep Saturday. For that Williamson was named the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Week.

Congrats to Tim Williamson of @AndrewTigersMBB @andrewsports11 as he has been named the season’s first Player of the Week for the Men’s Basketball DI 2019-2020.https://t.co/6YSSyPuM41 pic.twitter.com/lgWIdDTXkM

— GCAA (@THEGCAA) November 4, 2019

Freshmen Kalen Williams and Trez Ruffin contribute early for their new teams

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Kalen Williams (December, 2018)
Kalen Williams (Lakeside ’19) and Trez Ruffin (Josey ’19), two former area standouts who will be expected to make an impact in their first season on the junior college scene, did just that in their teams’ opening games. Williams scored 11 points in 28 minutes during Western Nebraska’s 100-86 win over Central Wyoming Saturday after logging 8 points in 24 minutes in Friday’s 96-75 loss to Western Wyoming.

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Trez Ruffin (February, 2019)
Ruffin scored 12 points in Iowa Western’s 89-70 win over Northwest Kansas Tech. Iowa Western dropped its game against Colby Saturday 93-73.

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Augusta Moves Up to #16 After a Hot Start Despite Limited Play

Even with limited opportunities to take the floor and show off its high-powered lineup, the Jaguars are seizing each moment.

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To state the obvious, this is not a normal season in college basketball. Usually by this time, Augusta would have played 9 or 10 games and be into Peach Belt Conference play. Because of cancellations the last two Wednesdays and another this Sunday, the Jaguars might enter January sporting an undefeated record, but after only playing two games. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that even with limited opportunities to take the floor and show off its high powered lineup, the Jaguars are seizing each moment. Augusta’s two wins, both at home, have been double digit victories against stiff competition. Last Saturday’s 97-83 triumph came against an Emmanuel squad that was chosen by the Conference Carolinas coaches to win its league in their preseason poll. And Lander, who Augusta topped 87-72 on December 2, won the Peach Belt Conference tournament championship last season after finishing third in the regular-season standings (Augusta finished second in the regular season with a 16-4 league record.)

Augusta Moves Up in the National Rankings

The voters for the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) NCAA Division II top 25 poll have taken notice by ranking Augusta #16 in the nation in the week-two installment, seven spots higher than in the week-one edition. Like the college basketball schedule, the NABC rankings are anything but normal. Ten of the top 25 ranked teams have yet to play a game, making it easy to understand why Augusta is moving up the ladder quickly with its pair of impressive wins.

Arnold, Crawford and Lucas-White Look Sharp Early

During Augusta’s two victories, the veteran heavy squad has looked to be in mid season form, whether it be their shooting from the field, or their dominance in the paint. Three players in particular have produced eye popping statistics in the small sampling of action so far:

Miguel Arnold

The 5-11 junior guard has scored 41 points in two games while shooting 55% from the field, making 7 of 14 three point attempts and dishing out 9 assists.

Tyshaun Crawford

The 7-1 junior, who was voted preseason first team all conference by the Peach Belt coaches, has scored 39 points while making 15 of 19 field goals. Crawford also grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked 6 shots combined in the two games. He has also made 9 of 13 free throws, a marked improvement over last season.

Crawford’s fast start was noted in the NCAA’s recent account of its “all stats team”:

Darren Lucas-White

Lucas-White has stuffed the stat sheet from every angle during Augusta’s first two games, logging 40 points (73% FG), 13 rebounds, 8 steals and 6 assists. But Lucas White’s most exciting action might have been the one shown in the first clip of this video, which didn’t show up in the stat sheet. Watch below to see Darren hit the floor twice in one defensive possession during a second half stretch against Lander in which he completely changed the game with an exceptional display of effort and will:

In the post game interview below, recorded after Augusta’s latest win, head coach Dip Metress talked extensively about Augusta’s hot shooting and about Arnold, Crawford, and Lucas-White, as well as other impact making Jaguars. The video also includes a post game interview with Arnold and several clips from the win over Emmanuel:

From Augusta’s December 2 win over Lander, in which the Jaguars outscored the Bearcats 59-29 in the second half to turn a 15-point halftime deficit into a 15-point victory, below is the game’s video summary:

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Gators Throw Away Playoffs with Bonehead Penalty for the Ages

Costing his team a chance at the CFP, Gators defensive back commits what may go down as one of the dumbest penalties in sports history.

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On Saturday, Florida Gators cornerback Marco Wilson, a third-year legacy player who’s widely regarded as the Gators’ best defensive back, committed what may go down as one of the dumbest penalties in sports history.

On 3rd and 10 with exactly 2:00 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Gators defense stuffed LSU TE Kole Taylor short of the line to gain. After setting up a punt to their offense, led by Heisman-trophy front runner Kyle Trask, the Gators’ celebration was cut short as Wilson inexplicably ripped off the LSU player’s cleat and threw it downfield. 

After a momentary pause by the referees, who probably had to do double-takes in the dense Gainesville fog, the penalty flags rained down like so many alligator tears. The unsportsmanlike play gave LSU a first down, and set up a 57-yard field goal by Cade York with 23 seconds left in the game. Although Trask and the Gators would put together a few chunk plays on the subsequent drive to set up their own 50+ yard field goal attempt to tie the game, Evan McPherson’s kick skirted outside the left upright, ending the game, and probably Florida’s shot at the College Football Playoff. 

Social media reactions were merciless with many bringing up Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore’s infamous “dog-pee” celebration from the 2019 Egg Bowl. In that game, Moore’s unsportsmanlike penalty after a last-second touchdown resulted in the extra-point being moved back 15 yards. In a mystical display of instant karma, the Rebels would miss the kick and lose the game by one point. Fun fact: Wilson and Moore hail from the same hometown of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore committing the “dog-pee” penalty that cost his team the game.

Even former Gator greats were beside themselves as they joined the social media pile on:

The year started with Marco Wilson announcing his return to Gainesville for a third season. After starting as a true freshman and suffering an ACL tear early in his sophomore year, Wilson had contemplated joining the NFL draft. The decision to return for a chance at a championship looked like a great gamble for most of the year. But after being beaten repeatedly by LSU receivers on Saturday and then committing the horrible penalty that may cost his team a playoff berth, Wilson’s decision may turn out to be more ironic than heroic.

The Gators now turn their attention to next weekend’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama. It’s hard to imagine the Gators bringing the same energy into that game knowing that a win will likely still leave them short of the ultimate prize, a chance at the school’s fourth national championship.

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