ANDERSON, S.C. – Highlighted by a nonconference road matchup with Elite 8 participant Limestone and home-and-home meetings with NCAA participants and South Atlantic Conference foes Wingate and Lenoir-Rhyne, Anderson University women’s basketball head coach Jimmy Garrity has announced his 2014-15 schedule on Friday, which will begin in the middle of November.
The 2013-14 edition of the Trojans closed the season with a 16-14 overall record, as AU was eliminated from the postseason in the semifinals of the SAC Tournament to eventual tournament champion, Wingate. Prior to the tournament setback, the sixth-seeded Trojans stunned the league with a 71-64 overtime win over No. 3 seed Lincoln Memorial in Harrogate, Tenn. to open the postseason. The tournament win marked the second straight season AU knocked out LMU from the conference tournament.
Prior to the start of the 2014-15 season, the Trojans open the year with an exhibition matchup on Nov. 14 with Division I opponent, Elon, which joined the Colonial Athletic Association for the 2014-15 season after spending 11 years in the Southern Conference. The Phoenix is coming off a 15-16 season and posted a three-point win over Appalachian State in the SoCon Tournament for its lone postseason victory.
“This will be a good test for us,” Garrity said. “They lost just one senior, so they’re returning four starters.”
The regular season for the Black and Gold begins on Nov. 19 when it travels to in-state rival USC Aiken, marking the second straight year AU opens its regular season slate with the Pacers. A year ago, the Trojans participated in a home-and-home series with their Peach Belt Conference rivals, splitting the matchups, falling 61-59 on the opening day of the Holley Tractor/Crescent Automotive Conference Challenge, followed by a 70-60 win at the Abney Athletic Center. The Pacers closed 2013-14 with an 11-18 overall record.
“USC Aiken will be a good regional test against a Peach Belt (Conference) team,” Garrity said. “They are another team that will return four starters, so we’re looking forward to that start.”
Despite having just one nonconference matchup under their belts, the Trojans jump into SAC play three days later as they meet last year’s regular season co-champion Lenoir-Rhyne for their home opener. Last season, Anderson was the only team to defeat L-R twice during the regular season, which included a 71-70 buzzer-beating win in Hickory in late November. Lenoir-Rhyne earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, but fell in the opening round to Sweet 16 member, Armstrong.
Anderson continues its conference schedule looking to continue its recent success over LMU on Nov. 25. Despite falling to the Railsplitters both times during the regular season, the Trojans hung onto a 71-64 win in the SAC Tournament, putting AU into the tournament semifinals for the second consecutive year. The Lincoln Memorial loss would mark the last game for head coach Roger Hodge as he resigned at the end of the year. The Railsplitters are now under the direction of Krystal Reeves-Evans, who comes from Division I’s Georgetown.
“To start out with a league-winner and a regional host from last year, it will be a good test,” Garrity said. “Then we face Lincoln Memorial, who finished in the top-half of the conference last year and return some really good players. Fortunately, we have both of those games at home.”
A trio of road games awaits Anderson following the brief two-game conference stint, as it remains in the Palmetto State with a trip to Limestone on Nov. 29. The Saints are coming off one of their most memorable seasons in program history, advancing to the NCAA Elite 8 following a regional championship. Limestone entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 8 seed but began the tournament with a victory over top-seed Lenoir-Rhyne, followed by a two-point win over fourth-seeded North Georgia. The Saints would eventually defeat Armstrong to advance to Erie, Pa. for the Elite 8. The run would eventually end as Limestone fell to national runner-up, West Texas A&M.
“We scheduled a home-and-home with Limestone, which is a really good team,” Garrity said. “We’re looking forward to play some strong regional opponents this season and Limestone is right up at the top.”
AU continues its road stretch with back-to-back conference matchups with Brevard (Dec. 3) and Newberry (Dec. 6). The Trojans split with both teams a season ago, but defeated both teams at the Abney Center by a combined 68 points. Newberry, which was projected to win the conference a season ago, finished 15-12 for the year and was knocked out of the postseason with a 78-52 setback at Wingate.
The Trojans step away from their conference slate for the final time with back-to-back nonconference games, beginning with Georgia College on Dec. 13. Anderson looks to avenge a regular season loss to the Bobcats from a year ago, as GC defeated AU 68-61, despite 17 points from then-senior Emily Willoughby.
The Black and Gold closes their brief two-game homestand as they welcome archrival Erskine on Dec. 16 with a full point towards the Beville Cup on the line. Over the past three seasons, AU has knocked off the Flying Fleet by an average of 26.3 points, highlighted by two 32-point wins in 2011-12 and 2012-13. A year ago, the Trojans nabbed a 78-63 over EC at Belk Arena.
“The Erskine game is important to us,” Garrity added. “Our players are going to know about what this game means and we set forth a goal as a team this year is to earn that Beville Cup point for the university.”
Before bringing in the New Year, Anderson and conference power Wingate will lock up for a New Year’s Eve matinee. The Dec. 31 game will mark the deepest AU has played into December since participating in the Rollins Holiday Classic in 2010 when it played back-to-back games on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. The Trojans dropped all three games to the Bulldogs a season ago after sweeping the conference series in 2012-13.
“Wingate is a strong, well-coached team,” Garrity said. “We look forward to playing them on New Year’s Eve, which will be a test in its own, but it should be a great way to end the year.”
For the second straight season, AU will bring in the New Year with Catawba on Jan. 3 at the Abney Center. Last season, the Indians grabbed a 67-59 victory over Anderson in AU’s first game of 2014. Catawba would eventually sweep the conference series with a 13-point win at the Abney Center in the middle of February.
Following the matchup with the Indians, Anderson hits the road for two straight SAC games, beginning with a return trip to AU’s SAC Tournament quarterfinal win over LMU on Jan. 7. Three days later, the Trojans head east to Hartsville, S.C. to square off against Coker at its new Harris E. and Louise H. DeLoach Center, which was built and completed before the 2014-15 season.
On Jan. 14, the Trojans return to the Upstate to link up with Mars Hill, looking to continue their recent success over the Lions. Anderson has won three of its last four against its Tar Heel State rival, highlighted by a season sweep a year ago.
Anderson completes the season series with a visit to Lenoir-Rhyne on Jan. 17, seeking its third straight win in Hickory after winning by a combined three points in AU’s last two trips. On Jan. 21, Brevard comes to the Abney Center completing the season series with AU.
The Trojans complete their January road schedule with two back-to-back SAC matchups, beginning on Jan. 24 with Queens and followed by a Jan. 28 game at Carson-Newman. Anderson split with both teams in 2013-14, but tallied double-digit victories over the Royals and Eagles at the Abney Center.
Following a stretch of five road games in their last seven contests, the Trojans begin a three-game homestand starting on Jan. 31 with Newberry. After the key conference game with the Wolves, Anderson squares off with Tusculum for the first time on Feb. 4. AU swept the Pioneers last season and has won six straight over its Tennessee rivals dating back to 2011-12.
Anderson concludes the three-game home stretch with its return game with defending SAC Tournament champion, Wingate, on Feb. 7. The Bulldogs pulled off a narrow 56-55 win over AU at the Abney Center a season ago, as WU has defeated Anderson at its home site three times since AU joined the SAC prior to the 2010-11 season.
The Trojans face their final two-game road stretch of the 2014-15 year when they travel to Mars Hill on Feb. 11 and Catawba on Feb. 14. After the trips, AU plays three of its final four contests at the Abney Center, starting on Feb. 18 against Carson-Newman and Feb. 21 hosting Coker.
AU plays its final road game on Feb. 25 at Tusculum, before celebrating Senior Day on Feb. 28 when it welcomes Queens to the Upstate for its regular season finale. The Royals look to spoil Anderson’s regular season finale for the second straight season after knocking off the Trojans, 68-57, a year ago.
“I went through the rosters of each team in the conference this season, and it will be a very tough league, from top-to-bottom,” Garrity stated. “Typically, the team that is the best prepared to win is going to come out on top. We’ll have to come ready to play every single night if you want to finish at the top of the conference.”
The opening round of the SAC Tournament (March 4) will be hosted by the top-four teams in the conference standings, while the semifinals (March 7) and championship (March 8) will return to Greenville, S.C. at Furman University’s Timmons Arena. The 2014-15 season will mark the third straight season the SAC Tournament will conclude in Greenville after moving from Hickory prior to the 2012-13 season.