December 12, 2012

Saints Looking to Continue Progress in Peach Belt Opening Weekend

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – At this point last season, the North Georgia College & State University men's basketball team held a 4-3 record. This season, the Saints have bettered that record by one game and are certainly improved in just about every aspect of the game, especially from three-point range.

The Saints (5-2) have scored 68 more points this season and are scoring 9.7 more points per contest. That can be attributed to the fact that they are shooting better from the field as they have converted 48.8% of their shots compared to 42.5% a year ago.

The biggest improvement can be seen in the Saints' perimeter game. From three-point range, North Georgia has combined to shoot 43.1% over the first seven games whereas they shot just 35.5% a year ago. The Saints made just 50 three-pointers during their first seven games of the 2011-12 campaign and this season, head coach Chris Faulkner's group has drained 88 treys. Junior transfers Lamar Richardson and Ishmael Hollis have led the resurgence of the three-ball as they have combined to convert 54 three-pointers and are shooting a combined 48.2% from beyond the arc.

Richardson is coming off his third game of scoring more than 20 points. The Riceboro, Ga. native scored 22 points in North Georgia's 93-85 win over Limestone College Saturday. He led the team with a 7-10 performance from the field that included knocking down a game-high five three-pointers. 

For the season, Richardson leads the team with 32 treys which translates to 4.57 per game – second in all of NCAA Division II. He is shooting 47.8% from beyond the arc which has him 10th in the league and he averages 17.6 points per outing which has him currently ninth in the Peach Belt.

Hollis currently leads the team and is tied for sixth in the peach belt with 18.3 points per game and also adds 8.7 rebounds per game – good enough for third in the leage. He has drained 22 three-pointers to this points while shootin 48.9% from three-point range.

Behind Richardson and Hollis, Scott Windom averages 14 points per outing and is shooting 50% from the field while Chris Tanzy's 52.9% shooting from three-point range has him tied for first in the league in the category. Tanzy is also tied for fourth in the conference with 7.1 assists per game.

North Georgia will have to keep playing at a high level as they wrap up the 2012 portion of their season with a pair of very tough road games which also open their Peach Belt Conference schedule. The Saints will embark on a three-day, two game road-swing through Savannah, Ga. and St. Augustine, Fla. where they will take on Armstrong Atlantic State University and Flagler College to open their Peach Belt Conference slate.

While Amrstrong finished seventh in the conference race last season and Flagler was religated to last, these are two teams that have been playing with a chip on their shoulders this season and, like North Georgia, are looking much improved from a season ago.

The men will first take on the Pirates on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 3:30 p.m. The series stands at 8-12 all-time with the Saints winning the most recent meeting between the two with a 75-70 win on their home court last season on Jan. 25, 2012.

Armstrong (4-3) was tabbed 12th in the preseason poll, but they proved how dangerous they can be as they defeated No. 20 Saint Leo University on the road on Nov. 30. But since then, they have lost two games to the University of Tampa and Florida Southern College and have not played since Dec. 3.

The Pirates boast one of the hottest players in all of NCAA Division II right now in two-time PBC Player of the Week Aric Miller. Miller leads the conference and is fifth in the nation with 25.0 points per outing inlcuding having scored 35 points in the Saint Leo game. He is shooting 53.6% from the field and that includes having made 15 three-pointers with a 45.5% completion percentage.

Alongside Miller, Kenny Bellinger, II averages 11.4 points per game while their typical starting five are averaging close to 58 points per game, more than half of the team's total of 81.3 points per contest. That starting five also shoots 47.3% from the field whereas the entire team shoots 46.4% while holding opponents to just 38% so far this season. 

After their bout with the Pirates, North Georgia will head to Florida where they will take on the other Saints at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17 to close out the month of December.

Despite finishing last in the conference race last season and being selected to the same spot in this season's preseason poll, Flagler has proven at times that it is improving on the court. In last season's meeting between Flagler and North Georgia, the Saints from St. Augustine scored their first win in the now 12-game series by taking home a 66-60 win from Memorial Hall Gymnasium. 

Flagler has handled its non-conference schedule well this season by going 4-1. They will open their league schedule against Young Harris College on Saturday while the Saints are playing the Pirates.

Flagler enters this weekend shooting 43% from the field and has held opponents to 37.3% but they have not played a team as good on the perimeter as North Georgia as their five opponents have combined to hit just 32 three-pointers against the Saints.

The St. Augustine Saints are led in scoring by Matt Clark and Adam Jones. Clark averages 14.6 points per game while Jones averages 10.0. Clark has made 24 of his 54 (44.4%) attempts from the field this season which is tops on the team and also leads the squad with 13 treys. 

Just behind that duo, Adam Jones and Richard Brown both average just over 9.0 points per outing and starting forward Jordan Warner is eighth in the peach belt with 8.2 rebounds per game.