Game #9-039: Norfolk State at Longwood LancersNovember 15, 2012 7:00 pm
Henry I. Willet, Jr. Hall
First things first, I'm a very proud Longwood alum. I graduated Longwood in 2008 which means I got to campus just in time in 2004-05 to be a part of Longwood's first season with a Division I schedule. How'd that year go? Lets just say this... 1-31 is not very fun. Over the years I've seen both good and bad teams come through Farmville. But no matter how the Lancers played, the season always just kind of fizzled out in mid-February as we finished match ups with our "rivals" like NJIT and Savannah State and there was no hope of a postseason of any sort.
All of that changes this year as Longwood embarks on their first year as a member of the Big South Conference. The Big South is a perfect fit for Longwood not only from a competitive standpoint, but a geographical one as well. The conference features four teams in Virginia, four in North Carolina and four in South Carolina. It also renews a rivalry with Liberty, which is less than an hour away from Longwood. #RealLU
One thing I've been trying to preach to fans and alum since the transition to the Big South began, was that the out-of-conference schedule record shouldn't really matter. With a young team that starts two freshman and a sophomore JUCO transfer, patience is key and November and December should be an opportunity for the team to gel and get ready for conference play. But throw that mess out the window! It's opening night!
NORFOLK STATE 78, at LONGWOOD 66
In walking into historic Willett Hall it was amazing how much better our small gym, that holds roughly 1,800 people, looked. There was a fresh paint scheme with the Big South logo in the lanes, new banners hung from the rafters with all of the Big South member schools, and a new video board had been installed over the summer. This was truly a different place from where I used to watch games in 2004. The thought of a video board back then would have been a pipe dream at best. At one point in the second half I found myself just staring at the board and watching the game on it rather than the actual play two feet in front of me. Thankfully my wife snapped me out of that daze.
Longwood was facing Norfolk State this night and one thing was abundantly clear, Norfolk State had learned something from their NCAA tournament run. Coach Anthony Evans clearly had a squad that could once again compete for a MEAC title and that was full of solid starters and productive role players. You knew coming in that the Spartans weren't going to simply rollover because they beat Rhode Island on the road in their opener and gave Seton Hall all they could handle this past Monday. The back-breaker for Longwood was the last five minutes of the second half. It was a three or four point game with five minutes remaining, but Norfolk State rallied to go up 43-29 at the half.
As you can probably tell by now, my Lancers lost. They mounted a comeback and were knocking on the door late, but they could never get over the hump. But why wasn't I upset or angry leaving Farmville? Simple, I saw building blocks of a winning team. Particularly, the biggest surprise has been the "Swiss Army Knife" Michael Kessens. Kessens was a late addition to Mike Gillian's roster and played junior ball in France. The Switzerland native had a heck of a statline in his home debut dropping 17 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks, and an assist. You could see Kessens has what it takes to develop into one of the Big South's premier big men. Kessens, along with youngsters Nik Brown, Lucas Woodhouse, Karl Ziegler, Jeylani Dublin... mixed in with veterans TT Carey, David Robinson (no, not that one), and Jeff Havenstein showed that Mike Gillian has his deepest and most talented roster ever. Now it is just time to grow and get ready for our first ever conference journey.
It was strange driving home after a loss and being truly excited about the future rather than upset about the events that just took place.
NORFOLK STATE 2-1 (0-0) -- P. Williams 3-8 3-4 11; R. Gaston 6-13 2-6 14; K. Brown 3-8 2-4 8; R. Johnson 0-5 8-10 8; M. Hawkins 4-7 1-2 10; B. Goode 2-3 0-0 4; Z. Estime 4-6 0-0 12; A. Rogers 0-2 1-2 1; K. Lila-St. Rose 2-3 0-0 4; J. Weathers 1-3 4-4 6. Totals 25-58 21-32 78.
LONGWOOD 0-2 (0-0) -- T. Carey 6-15 0-0 13; M. Kessens 7-10 3-4 17; N. Brown 3-16 4-6 10; D. Robinson 4-7 0-0 10; J. Dublin 4-8 0-0 8; J. Havenstein 0-1 0-0 0; K. Ziegler 2-3 1-2 5; M. Parker 1-4 0-0 3; L. Woodhouse 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-66 8-12 66.
Three-point goals: NORF 7-12 (M. Hawkins 1-2; K. Brown 0-1; P. Williams 2-3; Z. Estime 4-6), LONG 4-21 (T. Carey 1-8; M. Parker 1-4; D. Robinson 2-4; N. Brown 0-4; L. Woodhouse 0-1); Rebounds: NORF 40 (R. Gaston 11), LONG 39 (M. Kessens 15); Assists: NORF 11 (P. Williams 4), LONG 15 (T. Carey 5); Total Fouls -- NORF 15, LONG 20; Fouled Out: NORF-None; LONG-None.
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