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UALR Game Results: Barrington Stevens just wants to contribute to a winning team

December 22, 2012 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's · Comment 

South Alabama’s Barrington Stevens (4) looks for an open teammate as Tennessee State’s Jordan Cyphers (45) tries to block during the GSU Coaches vs Cancer Classic on Monday, November 19, 2012. Photo Credit: Jonathan Phillips | JTPhotography

Barrington Stevens is becoming the glue that holds his team together, something that has become increasingly true following Saturday’s 77-62 victory over Arkansas Little Rock.

The Texan freshman was South Alabama’s starting point guard for the second game in a row and responded with his best game as a Jaguar, scoring a career-high 17 points, including 3-of-4 shooting from behind the three-point line. He added one assist, block and rebound respectively.

More importantly, his team is now 2-0 in his last two starts, a trend he would like to see continue after Christmas when Sun Belt play really heats up with matches against Arkansas State, Louisiana Monroe and Middle Tennessee.

He’s a player that recognizes his role on the team doesn’t aspire to be leading scorer every game. He wants to take the shots that make the most sense and pass first to get his veteran teammates the bulk of the scoring opportunities.

Saturday’s scoring outburst appears to be an anomaly but something Stevens can do when called upon. In fact, he’s believes himself capable of performing several needs depending on what his coaches need most.

In high school, Stevens average 11.9 points and 3.1 assists as a senior at Allen High School in Allen, Tex. He also set the school record for assists in a single game (14) that season. He hopes to bring that kind of flexibility to the Mitchell Center t this season.

“I always try to be solid, not turn the ball over, and let the game come to me,” Stevens said. “We have people that can score and it’s really great to have those kinds of weapons around me so I can just feed off them.”

Remarkably, Stevens is just a freshman and the second youngest player on the team behind Viktor Juricek. But he’s not worried about age or his perception. He just wants to be recognized as a contributing member to his team and that will come with his continued hard work and effort.

“I just want to run the team and be seen as a good floor general,” Stevens said. “My job is to get my teammates in position to score as well as to break down the defense and get easy buckets for myself and others. If we do that and we get the win, that’s how I know that I’ve done my job. A good point guard is always measured by his winning percentage.”

Now Stevens is looking to return home to Allen, Texas as a humbled but breakout player. He’s going to rest up during the holidays and maintain momentum going against Arkansas State. Game day is set for Dec. 29 with tip-off set for 7:05 p.m.

Recap: Jeff Price era begins with 77-62 victory over West-leading Arkansas Little Rock

December 22, 2012 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's · Comment 

The Jeff Price era of South Alabama basketball is off to a good start, with the Jaguars defeating Arkansas Little Rock, 77-62 to take sole possession of first place in the overall Sun Belt Conference standings. While Western Kentucky is also undefeated in the SBC, they are 2-0 and playing outside of the league tonight against nationally-ranked Louisville.

It was an overall good day for Price who had just four days to prepare for the Trojans following the surprise retirement of former head coach Ronnie Arrow. Price had served as Arrow’s assistant from 1989-1993 and again for the last two years.

“I was obviously very pleased with our effort,” Price said. “I thought we came out with good energy after we got over that lull at the beginning of the game. I was really happy with the way we shared the ball. Our assist-to-turnover ratio was really good. We were really good defensively against a pretty good team. … Really pleased with the way we finished the game. I’m trying to get this team to have a little more killer instinct and to know how to put people away. Each time they got close we built it up and it ended up being 15.”

Down 15-13 roughly 10 minutes into the game, momentum had already started to shift from the Trojans to the Jaguars when USA unleashed a 16-0 run to take a 29-15 lead. In response, Little Rock head coach Steve Shields was forced to call a time out.

The Jaguars had raised the tempo from what had started out as stoic to hectic after the first five minutes, challenging shots and never giving up on second chance scoring opportunities. Not even the UALR time out could stop the momentum as the Jaguars maintained the frantic pace and ended the half with a 39-30 lead.

Little Rock got close on several occasions in the second half but could never take back the lead. The Trojans went on a 12-4 run halfway through the period but could only get as close as three points. The Jaguars eventually built on their lead and steadied it to around nine points for most of the game and ended left with a 15 point victory.

They did it using a balanced attack of consistent shooting, a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and while also forcing the young Little Rock team to turn over the ball 21 times. The total package resulted in a double-digit victory for the second time.

The only apparent flaw in South Alabama’s game was their struggles from the free throw line, which was limited to 17-of-28 attempts — a 60.7 percent clip.

The team appeared energized by the change in leadership and responded to Price by delivering their most-impressive victory since defeating nationally-ranked Florida State, 76-71 on Nov. 9. Stevens said the transition from Arrow to Price “wasn’t drastic” and added that his leadership led to the team playing “more loose.”

“Coach Price is a great coach,” Stevens added. “He lets us play and I feel like we got 100% from everyone who stepped in and played today. We tried to not think about the transition and focus on our progression to become a championship team.”

After defeating Arkansas Little Rock on Saturday, the Jaguars are one step closer. The Jaguars are the only 3-0 team in the conference and stand at 6-5 overall. The Trojans drop to 8-6 and 2-1 in the SBC.

The season will take just a short break for Christmas and will resume on Dec. 29 when Arkansas State visits the Mitchell Center. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.

Notables:

Augustine Rubit scored his 1,000 career point on Saturday, becoming just the 16th player in school history to accomplish the feat.

Jeff Price on talking to Ronnie Arrow before the game:

“It’s been, as you can imagine, quite a whirlwind the last few days and I have spoken with Ronnie and his spirits are good and he wished us luck. I’m sure I’ll talk to him again after the game. It’s interesting to see how everyone’s going to react. I think everyone’s just sitting and waiting to see how we would react and early in the game we were down 7-1 and it just took a little time.

“It was like hey, we better get going and time to move on. I thought once we reacted to that and moved on and got into the flow of the game it was good. You just learn in this business you just have to go on to the next chapter and move on. This game will make us realize that we can be a championship caliber team and just keep getting better.”

Weaver: Brief thoughts prior to Saturday’s basketball games against Arkansas Little Rock

December 22, 2012 · By · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

Today presents a case of baptism by fire for South Alabama men’s basketball as they will do battle with Sun Belt West leading Arkansas Little Rock on today at the Mitchell Center.

This afternoon’s game (tipoff, 2 p.m.) will also be the Jaguars’ first under interim head coach Jeff Price, who took over when Ronnie Arrow mysteriously retired on Wednesday morning.

It’s a tall task to expect Price to take a team that has been so inconsistent this year to defeat a Little Rock team that appears to have one of the best rotations in the league. But if there was ever a predictor that indicated success under this sort of situation, this would be it.

For starters, we know this team has talent. They showed it at the start of the season when the defeated nationally ranked Florida State University. The team has yet to put together a full 40 minutes and some have speculated that is what Price was promoted to inspire.

It’s no secret that Arrow was not a popular figure amongst many of his players over the past few years. Perhaps the decision for Arrow to retire was based on the hopes that a new coach would produce different results down the stretch and in years to come.

The same issues have plagued South Alabama men’s basketball over the past few seasons including apathy on defense, especially from outside the perimeter and cold stretches on shooting from the floor.

Perhaps a change of leadership will produce a change of fortune as well.

There is increased emotion surrounding this game — and now the entire season. In addition to the overall Sun Belt lead at stake, South Alabama is now looking to prove they can win on their own merit, regardless of coaching and rise the occasion when it counts the most.

And today’s game certainly counts.

The facts:

South Alabama is 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference thus far and are tied for first place with Western Kentucky in the East Division. The Jaguars are 2-1 at home this season and they have played the 323rd ranked schedule in the country. South Alabama is averaging 71.9 points, 12.1 assists and are shooting 42.5 percent. Defensively they are allowing 70.4 points and 12.7 assists. Their opponents are shooting 44.5 percent from the floor.

The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans are also unbeaten in the Sun Belt thus far and lead the West Division. However, they’ve lost two of their last three games and are 0-3 on the road. Arkansas-Little Rock is averaging 68.2 points, 13.5 assists and is shooting 43.1 percent from the floor. Defensively their opponents are averaging 63.9 points, 11.0 assists and have allowed a shooting percentage of 39.8 percent from the floor.

Game on.

Matt Weaver is attending today’s game for Thunderjags and can be found on Twitter @MattWeaverJag. Follow him and @USAThunderjags for live game updates and postgame stories and quotes.

USA Athletic Director Joel Erdmann talks Ronnie Arrow retirement during impromptu press conference

December 20, 2012 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's · Comment 

South Alabama athletic director Joel Erdmann during Wednesday’s basketball press conference Photo Credit: Matt Weaver | Special to Thunderjags

It’s somewhat ironic that South Alabama men’s basketball head coach Ronnie Arrow would choose to retire following a game in which his team defeated Texas A&M: Corpus Christi – the team that Arrow coached in between stints at the University of South Alabama.

In a move that can only be described as sudden, Arrow has asked and was granted his release as head coach of the Jaguars on Wednesday morning during a scheduled meeting with Athletic Director Joel Erdmann. As a result, assistant coach Jeff Price has taken over as interim head coach with a national coaching search to take place at the end of the season.

“It’s not entirely unheard of for a head coach to step down in the middle of a season,” Erdmann explained on Wednesday during a press conference. “He expressed a desire to retire, and I have accepted that notice of retirement, effective immediately.”

Arrow spoke to his players early on Wednesday morning and the team was “quite surprised,” according to Erdmann.

The Athletic Director followed that meeting by talking to the players separately where he told the team that a change in leadership will not change the goal of this season. He asked that the players continue to work toward a conference championship and securing a post-season berth.

“I think part of the formula and consistency moving forward is Jeff Price,” Erdmann said. “I can’t undervalue the amount of respect I have for him. The players have respect for him and I think the players will rebound and recover under Jeff’s leadership.”

Neither Arrow nor Price attendedWednesday’s press conference but the USA AD confirmed that Price would be considered for the full-time job next season if that was something he was interested applying for.

Erdmann admitted that the timing was indeed odd but would not confirm if Arrow’s decision was performance-based. South Alabama began the season on a high note, defeating nationally-ranked Florida State University, 76-71 on Nov. 9 in Tallahassee.

But the rest of the season has been marred by inconsistency with the Jaguars losing three-straight during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Atlanta as well another two-game skid to New Mexico State and UAB. However, South Alabama remains undefeated in Sun Belt Conference play, holding victories over Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

“Decisions like this are often personal in nature and I have an obligation to recognize that and move forward,” Erdmann said.

When asked if Arrow was retiring from the game of basketball, Erdmann paused and simply said, “He’s retiring from his position as head coach of South Alabama men’s basketball.”

Arrow has an overall record of 211-161 at USA, including a 112-84 mark in Sun Belt games. He’s been selected as the Conference Coach of the Year on three occasions and led USA to its only NCAA Tournament victory, a dramatic 86-84 victory over the University of Alabama on March, 17, 1989.

“Ronnie has a great history here and we have a great deal of respect for him,” Erdmann said.

Jeff Price will retain Arrow’s staff for the remainder of the season. The Jaguars’ next game is a home league contest versus West Conference leading Arkansas Little Rock. That game will be played this Saturday, Dec. 22 at 2:05 p.m.

Quotables:

Erdmann on the team’s chances for the rest of the season:

“We’re still 5-5 and 2-0 in the conference. We have perhaps…one of the best players in the league and a great supporting cast. This team has battled through moments of inconsistency that has led to what we can consider disappointing losses but we have a real potential for a post-season berth.”

Erdmann on Arrow’s second stint as South Alabama head coach:

The circumstances of the second hire can be seen as unique. I believe he was hired to take what was a veteran team to the post-season and that’s what he was able to accomplish.

On college basketball in Mobile and recruiting opportunities:

Unquestionably, we have a very recruitable city.  We have a recruitable region, facilities – and we have the potential to have an amazing crowd environment.

We need to sell more tickets but we’ve done a great job recently of attracting the student body to our games and I think that is only going to continue.

Viktor Juricek has breakout performance in South Alabama’s victory over Corpus Christi

December 18, 2012 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's · Comment 

South Alabama freshman Viktor Juricek | USAJaguars.com

Viktor Juricek had his best game as a member of South Alabama’s basketball program during the team’s 74-69 victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Sunday afternoon. In 17 minutes off the bench, the freshman scored 10 points off 2-of-3 shooting (a pair of three-pointers) and was 4-for-4 from behind the free throw line.

It was this sort of raw talent that first attracted head coach Ronnie Arrow to the young Slovakian. More to the point, Sunday was an indication of what could be in store for basketball fans at the corner of Old Shell and University.

“Everyone seemed really surprised at Viktor’s three-point accuracy but that’s something we already knew he was capable of,” Arrow said. “But we’re looking to see his quickness and rebounding improve. The European game is a little bit slower and not quite as athletic so we think it’s going to take a full summer in our program before we start to see his full potential.”

Juricek chose South Alabama in large part due to Arrow and has already taken his staff’s advice to heart. He’s hoping to take the next step as soon as possible and is looking forward to more days like Sunday.

“The difference in strength and quickness is pretty noticeable,” Juricek said of the American game. “When I first got here, I was an inside-outside player who was always allowed to shoot the ball. Coach Arrow allows me to do that but he also wants to see me be more efficient on the inside – a more complete player.”

Juricek believes that he’s already seeing improvement, especially on his inside game but isn’t resting on Sunday’s success. He’s going to keep working.

“I know that I am not as strong as some of the other players, so I need to outwork them or be smarter than them — be more skilled than they are,” Juricek said. “In Europe, it was easier to drive to the basket from the outside but these guys are stronger and more athletic. [Sunday] showed what I was always capable of doing — shooting the ball. But I’m not taking a day off. That’s what got me here and I believe that’s the way I’ll get even further.”

His attitude is a favored trait by his head coach, leading him to believe that Juricek can ultimately make the transition — provided he maintains his work ethic.

“Here’s a guy that is always the first guy in and the last guy out. He’s a hard worker that’s going to put in maximum effort and that’s what we like about him.”

Read More: South Alabama’s Introducing Viktor Juricek feature

Check out Matt Weaver on Twitter at @MattWeaverJAG

South Alabama Men’s Basketball earns two-day vacation with 74-69 victory over Texas A&M – Corpus Christi

December 16, 2012 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's · Comment 

Corpus Christi guard Johnathan Jordan defends Barrington Stevens during Sunday’s 74-69 victory at the Mitchell Center

South Alabama men’s basketball snapped a two-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon, defeating Texas A&M Corpus Christi 74-69 on a rainy night at the USA Mitchell Center. The Jaguars used a 14-2 run at the start of the game to pull away from the Islanders and they never looked back.

The Islanders three-point prowess (10-23) kept them in the game but it wasn’t enough to outduel the Jaguars who shot 25-of-59 from the floor.

Head coach Ronnie Arrow has stressed defense every day during practice following his team’s 92-78 defeat at the hands of UAB on Dec. 8. That renewed commitment to defense finally paid off on Sunday and Arrow responded by rewarding his team with two much-needed days off before practice resumes for the Dec. 22 conference match-up with Arkansas Little-Rock.

“I thought we really played well at the start of the game,” Arrow said. “I thought we really played well for most of the game. We came back and spent three very hard days on defense. We got after each other. We’ve been giving up far too many points.

“They still got 69 points, but I think until the last four minutes we were playing really good defense and we gave up some threes uncontested and didn’t guard the hole like we should have. But I thought overall our defense was a lot better.”

Augustine Rubit looked a lot better too, scoring 23 points and pulling down 19 rebounds. The junior All-Sun Belt player also made a little bit of history on Sunday afternoon, tying a career-high in rebounds and is now just three points away from 1,000 in his collegiate career. That mark is good for 14th on the all-time South Alabama scoring list.

The Islanders started the contest with a Zane Knowles jumper but the next eight minutes was all South Alabama as the Jaguars orchestrated a 14-point run. Brandon Pye broke the streak for Corpus Christi with an unassisted three-point jumper but Rubit responded with a lay-up and free throw to increase South Alabama’s lead to 17-5.

Mychal Ammons tacked-on a lay-up at the 12:03 mark to restore South Alabama’s 14-point lead.

Corpus Christi finally found their range following the Ammons bucket, with Will Nelson and Brandon Pye nailing three-consecutive three-pointers to start closing the gap. Joy Williamson hit his first layup at the 8:06 mark to end an 11-0 TAMCC comeback that made the score 21-18.

That is as close as Corpus Christi would get as South Alabma responded with an 11-0 run that virtually put the game out of reach.

Corpus Christi was led by Pye and Johnathan Jordan with 17 points each. Williamson and Nelson scored 12 points each with Nelson also grabbing eight rebounds.

The win puts South Alabama at 5-5 on the season, with TAMCC falling to 1-6.

The Corpus Christi game was the Jaguars final non-conference contest on the schedule. Little Rock will come into the Mitchell Center next week leading the SBC West with an 8-4, 2-0 record. While South Alabama has struggled to get back to a .500 record, Arrow was quick to remind everyone that the Jaguars are still 2-0 in conference with a share of the SBC East lead.

“Little Rock is young, physical and well-coached,” Arrow said. “But they are also susceptible to turnovers. Now we’re 2-0 in conference play and we want to get to 3-0 and that’s what we’re going to work on as soon as we’re rested.

Follow Matt Weaver on Twitter at @MattWeaverJAG

Weaver: Evolving media landscape expands Thunderjags coverage in 2012

November 7, 2012 · By · Filed Under Commentary · Comment 

Guess who’s back –

Not Domonic Tilford but wouldn’t that be a charm? No, I’m something a little less fulfilling but just as provocative — or at least, that’s what I hope.

My name is Matt Weaver and you may remember me as the former sports editor of some student newspaper at the corner of Old Shell and University, and I’m here to alter the face of Thunderjags and South Alabama reporting. Kind of like the President of the United States, CM Punk and that cute bank teller, I’m here to offer change.

That’s no disrespect to Brian and everyone else who has legitimized Thunderjags over the years. That’s a large part of why I’m here. I just want to see if I can take this little slice of the internet and be a part of something special and ultimately revolutionary.

So here’s the deal. The media landscape at South Alabama is much different than what it was the last time I wrote about Jaguar athletics — the end of the 2011-12 basketball season.

The Mobile Press Register fired over half of their newsroom including long-time South Alabama beat reporters Kim Shugart and Cassandra McAboy — professional friends of mine. So while it saddens me to write that, it definitely opens up the possibility that a new form of journalism can arrive and thrive at Ladd-Peebles, the Mitchell Center, Stanky Field and wherever South Alabama athletes compete. While blogging is a relative accepted art form in 2012, it hasn’t yet taken root at South Alabama.

We at Thunderjags expect to change that.

We hope to be more interactive with the fans. We plan to site courtside in the student section and provide live feedback to the webpage following every game, providing live content that no one else cares to acquire or devote appropriate time to. When it comes to college athletics, we endeavor that Thunderjags can and will become the top reporting body on all things red, white and blue. The current media landscape gives us that opportunity and we’re going to take it.

This is just the beginning and we hope that you guys provide us a lot of feedback. For example, what sort of content are you not receiving and what kind would like us to provide? Consider yourself our boss. You can opine by either dropping a comment in the appropriate section below or giving us a note on Twitter @USAThunderjags.

Let’s rock.

March 1st Vanguard Poll Question

March 3, 2010 · By · Filed Under Baseball, Polls · 1 Comment 

Will USA Baseball Contend for a Sun Belt Championship this year?

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February 22nd Vanguard Poll Question

February 22, 2010 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's, Polls, Women's · 1 Comment 

Can either of the South Alabama basketball teams win a Sun Belt Tournament Championship?

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February 15th Vanguard Poll Question

February 10, 2010 · By · Filed Under Football, Polls · Comment 

Can South Alabama football become a legitimate no. 3 program in Alabama?

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