Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big South-a-palooza !?!

Where do I begin?
We last had a SHOUT 12 days ago, and just a few things have happened since here are your HEADLINES:

without even needing to complete the Conference schedule to do it--but then they went ahead and finished undefeated in the Big South anyway (with hopes for more).

after defeating Coastal Carolina in the final at High Point. The HPU folks did a sensational job staging the event and the competition did a good job living up to the setting.

knocking off host Coastal Carolina on the Chanticleers' home field. Weather issues threatened, but the Coastal staff overcame all that nicely (more on that below--read on...).


  • first with PC taking on Duke in a Coaches vs. Cancer TV game at Durham (for the record, the Blue Devils indeed held off the Blue Hose, but Presbyterian gave a solid effort)
  • then with VMI hitting triple-digits in a high-profile win over Kentucky (just a year after then-pre-Big South Gardner-Webb scored a Big Blue surprise of its own on UK)
  • and finally with UNCA hosting Liberty as part of ESPN's 24 Hours of College Basketball programming--and the Bulldogs coming up big winners (more on that in a minute).

as UNC Asheville and the Asheville community prepare to host the Big South Conference for showdowns across the net and we pursue another championship winner.

Okay, take a breath.

By the way, a quick recap of the championships to this point shows an interesting trend:
Men's Cross Country = Liberty
Women's Cross Country = Coastal Carolina
Women's Soccer = Radford
Men's Soccer = Winthrop
That's four Conference Championship events with four different champions! Sure, Liberty snagged football to be the first to double up, but football awards its title by regular season record, so no championship event there.

All of which would beg the question, "Who could make it five for five at volleyball?"
The regular season ended in a three-way tie for Liberty, Coastal, and High Point--so you could include the Panthers as a contender for a fifth-different title-winner...but host UNCA has plenty of support and is playing strong enough to put the Bulldogs in the mix too.

Forgive me, but I like seeing the championships spread out among the schools. Last year, six different programs (of the eight members at that time) won Big South titles. The number is already up to four after finishing five sports seasons this year.

I missed the chance to post a SHOUT last Friday, so anyone looking here for the On The EDGE Viewers Guide was sure to be disappointed (and really no point in putting it here now)--but it was still posted as normal on, so if you like getting that update and you don't see one here in a given week, please look for it over there!

Speaking of last Friday, I was in Conway, SC, helping out with the video streaming of the men's soccer semifinal games. Although I had to drive through multiple downpours to get from Charlotte to the Grand Strand, weather along the coast was mainly cloudy and breezy without showers (after periods of rain during the previous day's quarterfinals). The first match pitted Liberty against Winthrop, and not even regulation play, two overtimes, and a standard number of penalty kicks would be enough to determine a winner. The Flames and Eagles had to go to extra PK's to establish which squad would make the final--and that honor went to the top-seeded Winthrop team. One thing we got in that game that you don't see very often: a goalkeeper KICKING a penalty kick shot--Patrick Mitrovich did the honors for WU and knocked one home to do his part on the offensive side. The later game had the host Chanticleers against UNC Asheville, upset winners over GWU in the quarterfinals. Coastal had most of the ball control, repelled the UNCA counterattacks, and won its way into a showdown with its traditional rival. I did not stay onsite through Sunday's final myself, but I can tell you it was a doozy, with the top seed Winthrop downing the host team Coastal Carolina 4-3 in overtime--great tournament action!

Some of you may have noticed a lot of posts happen here on Friday and real rule to that, but those days are often better for making the time to send a SHOUT. As I said, I was away last Friday--and then the same thing happened on Tuesday. I was fortunate enough to be courtside for the UNC Asheville vs. Liberty men's basketball game, shown to the nation on ESPN. The student section was full--and I daresay there must've been a run on body paint in the area around campus. The UNCA volleyball team was sitting right behind me, supporting Bulldogs basketball in full voice. The room was buzzing, the Bulldogs were fired up, and the Flames could never really match that intensity.

UNCA jumped out 7-0, expanded that to 49-30 at the half, and finished up 84-56 when the final buzzer sounded. The whole team played well, but you can certainly point praise to freshman guard J.P. Primm and junior guard Sean Smith. Primm was a source of energy throughout, and made all eight of his free throws on the way to a game-high 21 points in a team-high 30 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Smith was on fire from long range, sinking five of six shots beyond the extended arc to finish with 17. When the game concluded, Primm raced to the students to celebrate and high-five, spending so much time and having so much fun that the rest of the team joined him in the party.

On the other side, Liberty got double-digit point production out of Preseason Player of the Year Anthony Smith and freshman Seth Curry, but with low shooting percentages, a problem which plagued the whole Flames squad.

Great sidebar to the game itself: of course the fans (mainly students) were acting goofy for the cameras going to a national audience, but here's a SHOUT-out to the one who took it to another level--an interactive level--by showing a sign (which was a nice "We Miss You Kenny" message for injured and ailing player Kenny George) and then flipped it over to reveal a gag marriage proposal for ESPN's Erin Andrews along with a phone number. When I saw the sign, I cringed with wonder as to what was at the other end of that number, but moments later he could be heard saying something like, "Dude, my phone's blowing up--I've got seven texts, five voicemails, it's still ringing, and I don't know any of these people." Yes, he put his own cell phone number on national television. Must've seemed like a good idea at the time...yeesh.

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