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 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: