Augusta University grabbed the #23 spot in the week one installment of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) national rankings after the Jaguars bolted to a 1-0 start by overcoming a 15-point halftime deficit to top Lander 87-72 at home last Wednesday. Augusta was led by Darren Lucas-White, who put together a masterpiece of an all-around performance on both ends. The junior scored 22 points on 9-11 field goal shooting while grabbing 8 rebounds and nabbing 5 steals.
During the comeback Lucas-White, fellow junior Tyree Myers and sophomore Lee Flenor conducted a clinic in aggressive defense, exceptional effort and offensive rebounding. The effort transformed Lander’s 43-28 halftime lead into a 46-45 advantage for Augusta just 5 minutes and 21 seconds into the second half.
Augusta out-rebounded Lander 34-22 and committed only 6 turnovers while forcing Lander into 13.
Once Augusta started rolling, nothing would get in their way as the Jaguars outscored the Bearcats 59-29 in the second half. Junior Miguel Arnold, who was held scoreless in the first half, poured in 16 second half points as he found his rhythm coming off of screens, elevating and knocking down beautiful jump shots, making 7 of his 12 second half attempts.
Speaking of shooting accuracy, Augusta also got it from two new sources in the win. First was 7’1” junior center Tyshaun Crawford (16 points), who is no stranger to producing at a high rate for the Jaguars. After all, Crawford earned a second team All Peach Belt Conference spot last season after he averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds in conference play, and made 68% of his field goals (third best in NCAA Division II) on the season. But what was somewhat surprising last Wednesday was Crawford’s effectiveness at the free throw line, where he made 6 of 7 attempts after making only half of his free throws last season. Throw in his 5-6 field goal shooting (against 40 minutes of being double teamed) and his 9 rebounds and 2 blocks, and it’s easy to understand why the Peach Belt Conference coaches chose Crawford as one of the five players in the league to make this year’s preseason all conference team.
Off the bench came freshman John Whitehead with more impressive output. The local (Glenn Hills High) product made 3 of his 4 three point attempts, including 2 in the first half while the Jaguars struggled to score. Whitehead was nearly the sixth Augusta player to reach double figures in the game.
In addition to being ranked in the top 25, Augusta was also chosen as the preseason favorite to win the Peach Belt Conference championship by the league’s coaches. Augusta will get the chance Saturday to make it two wins at home to start the season when Emmanuel College visits Christenberry Fieldhouse for a non-conference game set for a 3:00 P.M. tip-off. The game will also give the Jaguars a chance to wash the bad taste Emmanuel left in the mouths of Jaguar Nation last season when Tyonn Stuckey broke a 71-71 tie by banking in a thirty-footer off the backboard at the buzzer to stun the thousands of fifth graders in attendance for Education Day.
Emmanuel makes for a formidable foe. The Lions were chosen to finish first in the preseason Conference Carolinas coaches poll after finishing second in the regular season standings last season. Emmanuel posted an overall record of 18-12 last season while finishing 14-6 in league play.
Augusta finished last season 21-8 overall and 16-4 in Peach Belt play, which was good for a second place finish in the conference, as well as a #4 seed in the Southeast Region of the 64-team NCAA Division II tournament. The Jaguars have qualified for the “big dance” in three of the last four seasons, and a total of ten times during head coach Dip Metress’s 14 seasons. Emmanuel last reach the dance in the 2018-19 season as the champion of the Conference Carolinas. During that same season Augusta earned Peach Belt Conferene regular season and conference tournament championships both, finishing the season as the #16 ranked team.
Augusta University Bell Ringer Podcast Episode Discussing Augusta’s Win Over Lander with Carlos Rodriguez, David Bulla and Chad Cook
Click for the full replay of Augusta’s 87-72 win over Lander, presented by AugBball’s Charles McNeil (play-by-play), Chad Cook (color) and Seth Wesley (producer).
Augusta Falls Short Against Flagler Despite a Valiant Effort Under Difficult Circumstances
Playing with 8 men and down two starters, Augusta failed to hold off a late push by Flagler.
Darren Lucas-White (Augusta) and Jazeic Lottie (Flagler)
Playing its second consecutive game with an eight man roster that didn’t include starters Miguel Arnold and Troy Cracknell, Augusta failed to hold off a late game push by Flagler, and the Saints topped the #10 ranked Jaguars 70-64 in St. Augustine Wednesday. Senior Jazeic Lottie, a transfer from Arkansas Little Rock who leads the Peach Belt Conference in scoring, posted 30 points in the win, including 9 straight during a 17-2 game closing run that spanned the final 5:14.
The outburst by Lottie made for the third time this season the 6-2 guard scored 30 or more points for Flagler (4-2, 2-1), which tallied two wins against Division I opponents in the pre-conference portion of its schedule to go along with its two PBC wins to date. Augusta (3-1, 1-1) was led by sophomore Lee Flenor, who scored 17 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and almost singlehandedly delivered a road win for the Jaguars with a 15 point, 10 rebound, second-half performance.
Darren Lucas-White (Augusta) – Photos via Flagler Athletics
Junior guard Darren Lucas-White added 15 points to go along with 4 steals, 4 assists and 4 rebounds in 38 minutes of action while simultaneously attempting to guard Lottie, who has already emerged as the conference’s best player, on the other end of the floor. That task proved too difficult during the second half when Lottie scored 21 of his 30 points.
Jazeic Lottie (Flagler)
Three specific plays by the talented newcomer give a good visual for what Augusta was up against during the second half, when Lottie found his rhythm. The explosive guard gave the Saints their first lead since early in the first half when he drove through the middle of the paint, moving from left to right, and converted an inside-hand layup on the right side of the basket with his left hand, right under the outstretched hand of Flenor, who had extended his arm to block what he thought would be a right-handed attempt by Lottie. That bucket gave Flagler a 36-35 lead with 17:00 remaining.
Fast forward to the deciding stretch, and you’ll see Lottie scoring a layup over Augusta’s 7-1 center Tyshaun Crawford to cut Augusta’s lead to 62-59 with 3:35 remaining before nailing a step back three pointer to tie the game at 62 with 2:00 left. Lottie would then make four consecutive free throws to finish his 9 point scoring stretch that gave Flagler its lead for good.
Until or unless Augusta’s roster is reinforced by the return of the likes of Arnold and Cracknell, the road ahead for the Jaguars will be difficult. But the team proved by defeating Georgia College in its conference opener, and by establishing a 62-53 lead with 5:39 remaining against Flagler Wednesday, that the will and the potential exists for this Jaguar squad to compete at a championship level, despite the obvious obstacles.
“Our effort was great,” Augusta head coach Dip Metress said after the game during the bus ride home. We were up 5 (with 4 minutes remaining) on the road, and we didn’t close it out. We’ll learn from it and get ready for the next one.”
Lee Flenor (3) and Darren Lucas-White
Lucas-White continued his transition from being the team’s defensive stopper and sixth man during his freshman and sophomore seasons to an All Peach Belt Conference caliber performer during the first four games of this pandemic influenced year. Along with Flenor, the junior figured prominently in Augusta’s second half spurt that saw the Jaguars erase a 47-41 Flagler advantage. Lucas-White nailed a mid range jumper with the shot clock ticking to zero that gave Augusta a 58-53 lead with 7:57 remaining, and 53 seconds later he followed up with a pull up jumper in transition to give Augusta a 7 point lead. Flenor then expanded the lead to 9 with a short floater on a feed from Tyree Myers before Lottie’s late game heroics stole the show.
In the first half it was freshman John Whitehead who combined with Lucas-White to score 16 of Augusta’s 18 points during an 8 minute long stretch that saw the Jaguars expand a 13-12 lead into a 31-20 advantage after Whitehead punctuated the run by knocking down two consecutive three pointers.
Metress agreed with me the morning after the game when I said that Lucas-White, Flenor and Whitehead are all showing signs of transforming themselves as players while being forced to shoulder a heavy responsibility that might not have been envisioned for them when the season began. Along with Myers, the team’s starting junior point guard and consistent leader who has quarterbacked the Jaguars to a 52-15 record since taking the keys to Augusta’s offense, and Crawford, the 7-1 preseason first-team all-conference center, Augusta’s five starters all logged more than 30 minutes of play Wednesday.
John Whitehead – Augusta
The Jaguars will need to rest fast because Saturday and Monday will bring two more road games before Augusta returns for a Wednesday/Saturday home stand next week. This Saturday’s opponent, Georgia Southwestern, which is currently allowing spectators at its home games, topped Georgia College 79-66 Wednesday to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Monday’s nemesis, Columbus State (1-1), also won last night, topping Clayton State 89-66.
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.
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:
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.
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”:
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: