Wednesday afternoon saw the Big South Tournament get under way down in Conway, South Carolina inside the HTC Center. ‘Myrtle Madness’ is upon us once again, and we couldn’t be happier! The race to the NCAA Tournament is going to be a wild one, as the conference tournament is wide open. Last season, the hometown Coastal Carolina Chanticleers cut down the nets and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and will be looking to do so again in 2015.
The first game of the afternoon saw the Longwood Lancers taking on the Presbyterian Blue Hose. The winner of this contest would receive the pleasure of taking on the Charleston Southern Buccaneers in the quarter-finals on Friday, who just so happen to be one of the two teams who were tied atop the regular season standings.
Presbyterian took a slim lead into the break, but the Lancers wouldn’t be denied on this day. Longwood used a strong second half push to knock off the Blue Hose, 65 – 61, and advanced to their second quarter-final appearance in just three years in the conference.
Longwood entered the game as the 9-seed in the conference, after a 5 – 13 record in Big South play. On the flip side, the Blue Hose entered with a 6 – 12 record in conference play, which was good for the 8-seed. If you looked solely at seeding, Presbyterian would have been the favourite. However, when teams are so closely matched, and the games are played on a neutral court, anything can happen.
The teams opened the game trading blows on the offensive end, with neither team being able to gain any form of consistent momentum. Three free throws from Markus Terry out of the under-12 media timeout gave Presbyterian a slim 3-point lead with over 11 minutes left in the first half. Those three free throws started a 13 – 0 run for the Blue Hose, and Presbyterian found themselves up 29 – 16.
Shaquille Johnson and Leron Fisher would do their best to bring the Lancers back, as they scored the Lancers’ last 15 points of the half. Johnson put in 10 points in the last seven minutes of the half, while FIsher put in five of his own. Despite their individual efforts, the Blue Hose would hang onto the lead for the rest of the half.
After the first 20 minutes, Presbyterian held a 35 – 31 lead over Longwood.
Presbyterian opened the second half by stretching their lead to nine points, thanks to layups from Terry and William Truss. The run prompted a Lancers’ timeout, and that seemed to kick-start the comeback for Longwood.
The talented trio of Johnson, Fisher, and Quincy Taylor would start to chip away at the Blue Hose lead. Thanks to their strong play on the offensive end, Longwood would take a 48 – 47 lead on a three pointer from Quincy Taylor with 10:35 remaining, prompting a Presbyterian timeout.
Out of the timeout, Longwood would stretch the lead to 6, thanks to a Darrien Allen layup. They would later stretch their lead to nine points due to jumpers from Jason Pimentel and Fisher. Now it was Presbyterian’s turn to chip away at the lead, and they would fight their way back into the contest.
With just 2:06 to play, Jordan Downing made two free throws to get the Blue Hose to within 3 points, but Longwood had a firm grasp on the lead and never let Presbyterian regain it down the stretch. Strong free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the deal for the Lancers, and they were off to the Big South quarter-finals with the 65 – 61 win over Presbyterian in the conference tournament opener.
Big South Freshman of the Year DeSean Murray led the way for the Blue Hose, recording a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds in the loss. Markus Terry put up a team-high 21 points in a losing effort.
For Longwood, Shaquille Johnson picked the perfect time for his first double-double performance of the season. He put together a game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Lancers to their 10th win of the season. Leron Fisher added 16 points, while Quincy Taylor added 13 points in the victory. Both Fisher and Taylor each connected on four three-pointers in the game.
The season continues for the Longwood Lancers, but they have a tall order ahead of them on Friday. They take on the Big South Tournament’s #1-overall seed, in the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, Friday afternoon at 12:00pm EST. They will look to pull off the major upset, but it certainly won’t be easy.
As for the Presyterian Blue Hose, their 2014-15 season has come to an end. However, the future looks bright in Clinton, South Carolina. With DeSean Murray developing into quite the player in the conference, and Markus Terry still in the fold, the Blue Hose have talented pieces in place for the future.