Trojans Looking for Elite Eight AppearanceMarch 14, 2011
ANDERSON, S.C. – The seventh-seeded Anderson men’s basketball team continues with what fans unfamiliar with the program would consider its unlikely run through the NCAA Tournament by making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Regional Championship by squaring off against top-seeded and host Augusta State in the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional Tuesday night, with tip-off slated for 7 p.m. at Christenberry Fieldhouse
Anderson (20-11) and Augusta State (30-3) will be facing each other for the second time this season and the third time in the past 12 months, with the Jaguars claiming wins in each of the previous meetings. Augusta State edged the Trojans, 78-72, in this year’s season-opener for both teams, with the three-time defending regional champions holding off a furious second-half rally by Anderson. ASU built an 18-point lead with just more than 13 minutes remaining in the game, but the Trojans rallied to cut the deficit to just 74-70 with 26 seconds on the clock.
Freshman guard Denzail Jones led the Trojans with 17 points in that contest, while senior guard Brandon Young and center Taylor Shugart chipped in 10 points apiece. Jones was a perfect seven-of-seven from the charity stripe and handed out a game-high five assists.
Fifth-year coach Head coach Jason Taylor has guided the Trojans to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since the school became a four-year institution in the mid-90s and the best two-year record (44-20) over that span. Anderson made its inaugural appearance in the Big Dance last year and with Sunday’s regional semifinal win improved to 3-1 in the NCAA’s Southeast regional.
The top-seeded and nationally third-ranked Jaguars will pose a daunting challenge, but the Trojans are becoming accustomed to the underdog role by going against higher seeded opponents in each of its tourney games.
With their win past Queens Sunday night, the Jaguars have equaled the school record for wins in a season and will be looking to run their home win streak to 49 games. Augusta State has won three consecutive regional titles and reached the NCAA Championship contest in 2008.
The Trojans have won four of their last five outings and reached the regional finals after upsetting no. two-seed Lincoln Memorial, 91-86, Saturday, then knocking off Montevallo by an 82-76 margin Sunday night.
Six players have averaged double figures for the Trojans in the two tournament matchups, with Young, a first-team All-South Atlantic Conference selection, leading the way with 16.5 points per game. The Belmont, N.C., native has also dished out eight assists and connected on 5-of-9 three-point attempts. Junior guard Nick Trull, the league’s Scholar-Athlete, has added 14.5 points while draining 10-of-11 clutch free throws over the weekend. South Atlantic Conference All-Freshman team selection Denzail Jones and seniors Oskars Ernsteins and Trey Britton have each averaged 11.5 points. Shugart has netted 10 points per game and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds per contest.
Anderson is looking to continue its stellar success over the past two seasons, as the 2009-10 edition of the Trojans got off to the best start in school history since becoming a four-year institution and culminated in a school-record 24 wins, eclipsing the previous record of 18 wins. Anderson also won 10 of its last 11 games en route to earning its first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans’ nine game-win streak equaled the longest in school history.
AU advanced to the round of 32 with its first-round win over Catawba, while becoming the first team in school history to be ranked. Anderson was rewarded for its undefeated start to the 2009-10 campaign with a No. 25 national ranking – its first-ever ranking, in the NABC/Division II coaches' poll in December. The Trojans finished the season ranked fifth in the Southeast Region, its highest ranking in school history, and did not drop below seventh during the season. Anderson also ranked third in the league and 12th in the nation in scoring, at 85.2 points per contest, while becoming the first Conference Carolinas team from South Carolina to reach the NCAA Tournament.