Game #9-413: Longwood Lancers at Gardner-Webb BulldogsFebruary 2, 2013 7:00 pm
Paul Porter Arena
For deciding where my night cap should be this Saturday night, the choice was clear. Gardner-Webb is a fairly long drive for me compared to where I usually go, at three hours away. But Boiling Springs is just over an hour west of Charlotte, where I had been earlier in the afternoon.
And I would get to see Longwood play for the first time this year, meaning I would have seen everybody in the Big South this year so far except Liberty and Radford. I have seen the Lancers in years past, as recently as last year at South Carolina State. But that was back when Longwood was an independent. I would finally see Longwood play as a member of an actual conference. It was good to see Longwood finally here in the Big South.
It has certainly been a different year for Longwood. Last year, the game I went to at SC State
was the only time the Lancers were recapped in the 800 Games Project. This year Longwood has been recapped quite extensively by season ticket holder and recent alum Parks Smith
. You can read more about Longwood's struggles to get to this point in his first conference recap here
. To summarize Longwood's plight, the Lancers joined Division I in 2004 hoping to join local schools like Liberty and Radford in the Big South. But that invitation from the Big South took a while to come. The football schools like Liberty and Coastal Carolina were not happy to have another conference member without football, especially when the Big South needed a sixth member to get an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs (the conference would later get that by bringing Presbyterian in from Division II and granting an associate membership to Stony Brook). The basketball schools in the Big South were turned off on adding Longwood as well, particularly after the Lancers went 1-30 in their first Division I season
. It is a good thing Longwood was able to eke out a win over Howard of the MEAC, as otherwise Longwood could have been mentioned along with NJIT and Savannah State as an "upwardly mobile fool"
by Kyle. Winthrop at that time was in the middle of the Gregg Marshall era, and needing a good RPI to raise their seeding potential for the NCAAs. But now Winthrop has sunk back to the middle of the conference in recent years, with no team in the conference worried about their RPI anymore. The good thing about Longwood is considering where they have come from, nobody can hate them. Or at least nobody should hate them, as there are still some fans in the Big South unhappy about having another member with a very low athletic budget. I also know one person who went to High Point with me who hates Longwood because he once got a speeding ticket in 2007 in Farmville when barely going over the speed limit (he is convinced that the real reason behind the Farmville police pulling him over was because they racially profiled one of his passengers). But Longwood is just a regular public liberal arts college in rural Virginia, and one that has had as much a struggle as anybody in Division I to even make it into the Big South.
But unlike what Savannah State has done so far in the MEAC
, the Lancers have not experienced a renaissance in the Big South. Coming into this game at Gardner-Webb, Longwood was 3-19 and 0-8 in the Big South. Even after playing half of their conference schedule, Longwood had still not yet won a single Division I conference game in its history. That fact right there made me more likely to pull for the visitors tonight, which I usually do not do unless the visiting team is High Point of course. But I had a pretty good feeling that they would not be getting that first conference win tonight in Boiling Springs. The Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs entered with a 12-10 record and were 4-4 in the Big South. Gardner-Webb had proven themselves capable of beating anybody in the Big South any given night already this year, particularly after winning at Charleston Southern three nights prior
. On the other hand, the Lancers the week before had previously lost to Presbyterian at home
. If Longwood could not even win their one game against a struggling Blue Hose team, it looked pretty problematic for finally getting that first Division I conference win ever this season. And winning at Gardner-Webb would be particularly troublesome coming off a 27 point loss at High Point three days prior. The Bulldogs were hot and Runnin', while the Lancers were not. This definitely did not seem like the kind of game where that would change. But anything can happen in the Big South, which would make this game interesting.
At first I thought I might have an unusually large amount of time between games, with the game at Charlotte ending around 4 and this game starting at 7. But I did not get out of the parking garage and off the UNCC campus until about 4:30, and did not get into Cleveland County until around 5:30. My knowledge of the area comes from American Legion Baseball's national tournament being held in Shelby (the closest town to Boiling Springs of any size) every August, so I knew where I could find a Chick-Fil-A. After eating there, I went on past a Taco Bell, a shame since I would likely have preferred to eat at a Taco Bell over Chick-Fil-A. I got to Boiling Springs and the Gardner-Webb campus just after 6, which is when I normally would arrive before a 7 PM basketball game anyway. Like at Presbyterian, nearly all of Gardner-Webb's seating is general admission except for most of the seats directly behind the scorers' table and GWU bench which are reserved for season ticket holders. Usually when I have been to Gardner-Webb before, I sit at midcourt and opposite the scorers' table, just to the left of the Gardner-Webb student section. But I decided to sit about five rows behind the Longwood bench this time, since I sympathize with the team's plight. I could hear Mike Gillian frequently yell at his players, one of the most passionate coaches I have ever seen. Gillian has been at Longwood throughout the Lancers' entire journey into Division I, and I feel sorry for him and Longwood fans like Parks who have watched mostly losing seasons while not having their own conference until this year.
The Gardner-Webb students were still pretty pumped up for this game. Gardner-Webb has been shown to rush the court after a buzzer beater win against Coastal Carolina
while wearing beach attire (the Big South is doing a Beach Night theme at all schools). This game, a lot of Gardner-Webb students were wearing "country"
attire (I do not know if that was part of a theme, or if that is just standard attire for this part of the Carolinas). A few students went against the trend and three students wore red skin-tight body suits. That said, those suits may have been a bit too
tight, if you know what I mean. And if you don't know what I mean, this
is what I mean (warning: a pretty explicit showing of another Gardner-Webb student pointing out what I mean
. You can see why a Charlotte fan earlier in the day was wearing shorts over his similar green body suit). Those three students seemed to have changed to regular clothes at halftime, I am not sure if they were told that they had to or did it on their own.
While Gardner-Webb's students were ready, so were the hungry Longwood Lancers. Longwood scored the first six points of the game and had a surprising lead most of the first half. Michael Kessens would dominate inside for Longwood as Gardner-Webb seemed not ready at the start. Longwood overmatched Gardner-Webb, and the Lancers got the Bulldogs to stop Runnin' and play at their pace. Gardner-Webb caught up midway through the first half after a bad start, but the game would go back and forth the rest of the half. Yet Gillian was not happy, and on one occasion called timeout just to walk out on the court and yell at Lucas Woodhouse. Gillian's concerns were mostly with the Longwood defense, as Longwood was getting penetrated just as easily as they were getting inside themselves. And a late 7-0 run by Tashan Newsome was able to give Gardner-Webb a 38-35 halftime lead despite a poor first half for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
As much as Gillian disliked the first half, the second half would be much worse for Longwood. After Longwood briefly took a 41-40 lead just over two minutes into the second half, Gardner-Webb would respond by taking the game over. Longwood's penetration where they kept getting the ball inside to Kessens would come up short in the second half. Longwood put up pretty impressive offensive efficiency numbers in the opening minutes, but would go completely cold in the middle of the second half. Gardner-Webb would outscore Longwood 24-6 over a 13 minute period to go up 17 with three minutes to play. It would again be more of the same for Gardner-Webb as they headed towards another conference loss. Gardner-Webb got lax again in defending Kessens and Tristan Carey in the final minutes, but it would not matter as Tashan Newsome's 26 points on the night would lead Gardner-Webb to a much expected 76-65 win.
It has been a tough road for Mike Gillian and the Longwood Lancers. But they have finally been accepted into the Big South where they belong. Many Big South fans may see Longwood as another weak addition, but all Big South teams at one time or another were a weak addition to the conference. Longwood finally showed some signs of progress at the beginning and end of this game, and while that did not get them their first conference win, it showed they were capable of doing so. And a week after this game, Longwood would get that first ever Division I conference win. Most appropriately it came against Winthrop in the Winthrop Coliseum, at a school that had worried about the inclusion of a team they feared would bring down the Eagles' strength of schedule. Longwood has now won three of their last four games. And it might be possible now that Longwood is getting closer to what they ad hoped for upon joining Hoops Nation over eight years ago.
at GARDNER-WEBB 76, LONGWOOD 65
LONGWOOD 3-20 (0-9) -- L. Woodhouse 1-5 0-0 2; T. Carey 5-12 2-3 13; D. Robinson 1-2 2-2 4; M. Kessens 8-11 5-6 21; J. Dublin 6-12 2-3 14; K. Ziegler 3-6 0-0 6; J. Havenstein 1-1 0-0 2; M. Parker 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 26-52 11-14 65.
GARDNER-WEBB 13-10 (5-4) -- T. Strange 0-2 0-0 0; J. Hill 6-7 1-2 13; T. Newsome 9-13 7-9 26; D. Harper 2-8 2-2 6; K. Hartley 4-6 0-1 10; J. Davis 4-7 4-4 13; O. Branch 3-4 0-0 6; M. Landis 0-2 0-0 0; M. Byron 1-2 0-0 2; I. Ivey 0-1 0-0 0; C. Hensley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-53 14-18 76.
Three-point goals: LONG 2-13 (T. Carey 1-6; M. Parker 1-3; D. Robinson 0-1; L. Woodhouse 0-3), GWB 4-10 (T. Newsome 1-1; J. Davis 1-2; T. Strange 0-1; M. Landis 0-2; K. Hartley 2-4); Rebounds: LONG 18 (L. Woodhouse 4), GWB 29 (J. Hill 6); Assists: LONG 12 (L. Woodhouse 6), GWB 16 (T. Strange 6); Total Fouls -- LONG 15, GWB 18; Fouled Out: LONG-None; GWB-None.
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