ANDERSON, S.C. – Anderson University head men’s basketball coach Jason Taylor has released the Trojans’ 2014-15 schedule, which features six games against four teams that made an appearance in last season’s NCAA Southeast Region Tournament and a preseason exhibition contest at Clemson.
As in the past, the Trojans face an early gauntlet of talented teams on their slate, highlighted by the exhibition game versus the Tigers and contests versus 2014 NCAA tourney participants GRU Augusta, Limestone, Lincoln Memorial and Carson-Newman. Taylor, entering his ninth year at the helm of the AU program, has an evenly-balanced schedule of 14 home games and 14 road contests
“I think our schedule takes a backseat to no one,” said Taylor. “I cannot imagine anyone in our region having a more difficult schedule. It is going to challenge us every which way we can imagine being challenged.”
Five of Anderson’s first seven regular-season games are on the road, as the Trojans open the campaign with three of six nonconference contests on the season.
AU visits Clemson for the first time in Taylor’s tenure for an exhibition game on Nov. 8 at Littlejohn Coliseum, with the Tigers coming off a 23-13 season a year ago that saw them advance to the semifinals of the 2014 NIT before falling, 65-59, to Southern Methodist.
“Our guys always have good focus,” Taylor added. “We are always excited about practice. I am curious to see what our approach will be in our preseason practices knowing that we get to play that game on Nov. 8. It should be a game that all of our guys and everyone in our program are excited about. I am looking forward to how that translates onto the practice floor. We are appreciative of the opportunity that Coach Brownell has given us. It should be a great game for everyone involved with Anderson University.”
The Trojans open the regular season less than a week later at the SAC-PBC Challenge in Augusta, Ga., on Nov. 14-15, for the second consecutive season after coming away with a pair of hard-fought wins a year ago. Guard Myson Jones’ two free throws with less than six seconds left lifted AU to a narrow, 61-60, win over Lander in the season-opener for both teams and followed up with another nail-biter, as the Trojans outlasted GRU Augusta, 91-86, in the second game of the season at Christenberry Fieldhouse. Then-senior guard Chandler Hash poured in a then career-high 42 points, while guard Myles Daniel added 15 points and Kyle Sledge pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
The early-season matchup marked the first meeting between the two teams since the Trojans upset the top-seeded and nationally third-ranked Jags, 75-73, in overtime in the finals of the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional. The last meeting in March between the two squads resulted in a classic NCAA regional quarterfinal matchup, with Hash burying his fifth 3-pointer of the night with 17 seconds left, as the Trojans erased an 11-point second-half deficit. But Devon Wright-Nelson's layup with five seconds remaining lifted GRU to an 86-84 win. The Jaguars then fell to host USC Aiken in the NCAA regional semifinals. GRU is expected to return Wright-Nelson, Keshun Sherrill, the reigning PBC Freshman of the Year and D'Angelo Boyce, who paced the team with 3.6 assists a game a season ago.
Anderson will look to continue its recent success in season debuts, as the Trojans have won five of its’ last seven contests on opening day and are 8-6 over the past 14 seasons. AU squares off against Clayton State to open the Challenge and will be meeting the Lakers for the first time since claiming a 70-69 overtime win in the 2010 SAC - Peach Belt Challenge in the Trojans’ first season as a member of the SAC. Clayton State posted a 10-16 overall record last season, including a 5-13 mark in the Peach Belt and missed out on earning a berth in the conference tournament.
The Trojans wrap up the Challenge by facing the host Jaguars for the third time in 12 months. GRU Augusta posted a 24-8 overall record last season, including 15-4 in the PBC, while earning its first NCAA win in three seasons. The Jags have appeared in six of the last eight NCAA Tournaments, including three Elite Eights and made an appearance in the national championship contest during that span.
“Both teams are going to be very good,” Taylor stated. “GRU Augusta could possibly be better than they were a year ago. Augusta has probably the best young guard in the Peach Belt and Clayton State is very, very well-coached and they will be extremely tough.”
Anderson closes out its season-opening three-game road swing with a trip to Young Harris on Nov. 19. The Mountain Lions completed their three-year transition to D-II a year ago with a 17-9 overall record and tied for second place in the PBC West Division with an 11-8 mark. The Wednesday night contest is the third meeting overall between the two programs, with AU looking for its first win against the Mountain Lions.
Three days later, the Trojans open their grueling 22-game South Atlantic Conference double round robin slate with a two-game homestand, beginning with Lenoir-Rhyne. The Trojans and Bears have met nine times, with Anderson holding a 6-3 edge in the overall series, while snapping a two-game skid at the hands of the Bears with a convincing 79-61 win at the Abney Center last January. L-R was 16-11 last season and tied for third with AU in the league last season.
“As always, I expect our league to be as good as anyone’s league,”
Taylor added. “[The conference] seems like it gets better every year. It is a league of really good coaches and it is going to be tough. If you have one bad night when you do not compete hard, you are going to lose.”
Lincoln Memorial invades the Abney Center on Nov. 25, with the Railsplitters looking to defend last season’s SAC regular-season and tournament titles. LMU posted a 28-3 record a year ago and finished the year ranked sixth nationally. AU handed the Railsplitters one of their two regular-season league setbacks a year ago with an improbable 18-point second-half rally, while LMU avenged the loss by edging Anderson in the SAC tournament championship, 76-71. Third-seeded Montevallo defeated the No. 2-seeded Railsplitters, 98-86, in the semifinals of the Southeast Regional a year ago.
Following a seven-day break for Thanksgiving, the Trojans travel to the Tar Heel State on Dec. 3 to face Brevard, which posted a 4-22 mark last season, then visit longtime rival Newberry on Dec. 6. The Wolves posted a 19-9 record last season and claimed fifth in the conference standings with a 14-8 mark. Anderson owns a seven-game win streak versus Newberry, with four of the last five meetings decided in overtime.
AU returns to the Abney Center for a three-game nonconference homestand on Dec. 10, as Limestone visits the Abney Center for the first meeting between the two programs since the Saints defeated AU, 65-55, in Gaffney on Dec. 12, 2012. That matchup marked the first meeting between the Trojans and Saints since both teams were part of the Conference Carolinas in 2009-10. Limestone holds a 17-12 advantage in the overall series that dates back to the 1995-96 season.
The Trojans welcome Peach Belt Conference-member Georgia College and first-year head coach Mark Gainous to the Electric City on Dec. 13 for just the sixth meeting in school history. AU holds a 4-2 edge in the overall series and has claimed wins in three of the last four matchups, including two straight.
Anderson wraps up the nonconference portion of its slate in mid-December versus Erskine, with a Beville Cup point on the line. The Trojans have won six of the last seven and 11 of the last 15 meetings with the Flying Fleet after building a 16-point second-half lead, then surviving a late charge to outlast Erskine, 60-55, last season at Belk Arena.
“It is always a great rivalry,” Taylor added. “They are going to be good and they are always well-coached.”
The Trojans close out the calendar year by returning to league action at Wingate on Dec. 20. AU has dropped three straight to the Bulldogs, who posted a 14-13 overall record last season and tied for the seventh spot in the league standings. Wingate halted the Trojans’ seven-game win streak in their second meeting a year ago, as AU suffered its lowest shooting percentage in five seasons. After winning five of the first six meetings as conference opponents, the Trojans have dropped four of five decisions to the Bulldogs.
Following a two-week break for the Christmas Holiday, the Trojans open the New Year on Jan. 3 by resuming their SAC schedule with the first of two meetings versus Catawba, which notched a 7-19 overall record last season and narrowly missed the conference tournament with a 7-15 mark and a ninth-place finish. Four days later, Anderson wraps up its regular-season series with Lincoln Memorial, as the second meeting of the season occurs on Jan. 7.
Coker, which went 15-13 overall and 11-11 in its inaugural season in the South Atlantic Conference, provides the next road test for the Trojans. AU was unable to find the range from the free throw line in the two teams’ first meeting since the 2007-08 season, dropping an 83-81 heartbreaker at home to the Cobras. The Trojans then avenged the setback by defeating Coker twice, including a 100-89 win in the conference tournament behind Hash’s career-high 44 points.
Anderson plays host to Mars Hill on Jan. 14, squares off against Lenoir-Rhyne for the second time three days later and wraps up the first half of the SAC double round robin slate with the second meeting of the campaign versus Brevard on Jan. 21 at the Abney Center.
The Trojans’ slate includes a pair of two-game conference road swings over the final half of the SAC schedule, with AU playing three of its final four games at home.
The 2015 South Atlantic Conference Tournament will feature the top eight teams in the league squaring off on Wednesday, March 4 at the home sites of the four top seeds, with the tournament semifinals and championship slated to be held on Saturday and Sunday, March 7-8, at Timmons Arena in Greenville, S.C. for the third straight year. Anderson is the designated host school for the event for the second straight time since joining the SAC for the 2010-11 season.