Checking in on the… Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2009

Rick Henderson of The Owl’s Nest is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference.

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Rohnert Seals Two Quality Wins  for the Pioneers

Denver’s recent streak of bad luck in close games came to an end last weekend against East with a 78-74 win at home over Western Kentucky.  The Hilltoppers pulled within two points in the final minute last Saturday, but Denver’s Brian Stafford connected on a bounce pass to cutting teammate Nate Rohnert for a backdoor layup. This put the Pioneers up by four points with 13 seconds left to finish off the Toppers.  WKU saw its four game winning streak come to an end.    On their next outing, Rohnert struck again, scored 12 points, and made the game-winning basket with five seconds left to lead the Pioneers to a 56-54 victory over South Alabama at Magness Arena.  “We’ve been playing well every game for the past three weeks, but tonight at those critical moments we made the shots and didn’t turn the ball over…I thought our big turning point could be a win on the road, but why can’t it be beating the class of our conference at home?”, said Denver Coach Joe Scott.

Troy Exceeding Expectations

When you think of the East, you think Western Kentucky.  Middle Tennessee.  South Alabama.  But Troy?  Yep, the Trojans are in a dog fight for the top spot in the East and have far exceeded pre-season expectations on all levels and are off to the best start in league play since joining the Sun Belt.  The success comes as a shock since Troy lost all five starters from last season’s 12-19 squad and was picked by the league’s coaches to finish last in the division.

Jarvis Whacked With Three Technicals

After an errant out of bounds call under the basket where the referee awarded  the Louisiana-Monroe the ball, FAU head coach Mike Jarvis could not contain his frustration.  The FAU bench was immediately hit with a technical for vocal objection (which may have been him).  Jarvis, who continued to protest, was then hit with three successive technical fouls on his own.  As a result, FAU suspended Jarvis for it’s next game versus John Brady’s squad – which was billed to be the leagues most high profile coaching match-up at the start of the season.

Tidbits from Around the League

  • Florida International has been whacked by the injury bug yet once again. Florida State transfer Josue Soto (thumb) and preseason all-conference center Russell Hicks (stress fracture) finally returned to action but then star freshman center Freddy Asprilla (back spasms) then missed the last two games. Currently, Asprilla leads the Sun Belt in rebounding .
  • New Orleans beat MTSU, 69-65, Saturday despite having only seven scholarship players and one walk-on available. Point guard Darrian McKinstry, second in the league in steals, has been suspended for the second time in less than a month.
  • Florida Atlantic saw its losing streak grow to a concerning 13 games at the  hands of poor shooting, dropping yet another to the Trojans of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock by a final score of  59-66.  The Owls are down to eight scholarship due to injuries and academic problems.  Preseason all-conference forward Carlos Monroe is expected to miss at least another week due to a chronic heel problem.
  • Arkansas State forward Eric McKinney, who leads the SBC in blocks per game,  was suspended indefinitely for missing the second half of a recent 60-57 loss to MTSU.  According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, McKinney ripped off his jersey in reaction to being benched by John Brady late in the first half.   He did not return to the bench after the half time break.  Brady said McKinney could return to the team if he meets a certain set of criteria.

That’s the Stat Jack

  • The Denver Pioneers, despite their recent quality home wins, have lost 40 straight on the road.  Ouch!

Game of the Week

  • Sat, Feb 7th    South Alabama @ Western Kentucky    1:00PM CST    ESPN

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