GREENVILLE, N.C. ––Newberry may be a Division II school, but don’t tell that to Indian head basketball coach Shaun Golden. Since Golden was an assistant under two of the biggest names in the national coaching fraternity (Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith and Winthrop head coach Gregg Marshall), he only knows one speed for his teams: Full throttle. Part of this acceleration to the top of the Division II basketball landscape is exposing his young team to the best possible talent available. So while many schools in Newberry’s division warm up against whatever Ukrainian National B travel team that is in the country at that particular time, the Indians refine their palate on the chops of members of major Division I conferences.
While Newberry’s first game ever against a C-USA opponent didn’t go quite in the favor of the Indians, a 90-45 defeat last Thursday at the hands of the Pirates of East Carolina, one cannot over-estimate the value of playing these high-caliber teams as a tune up to South Atlantic Conference competition.
Newberry can take heart in the performance 6-8 sophomore forward Eric Nwawel (Cameroon, Africa), who recorded a double-double in his debut performance as an Indian. Nwawel (pronounced WA-WELL) Newberry in scoring with 11, and recorded the game-high rebounding total with 11. Within his rebounding total, he grabbed five offensive rebounds, also a game high.
The first six minutes of the game belonged to the Pirates, largely due to a pressuring defense that forced six Indian turnovers in that time period. Newberry woke up after freshman Chris Johnston (Flat Rock, N.C.) buried a three-pointer at the 13:36 mark. Newberry was able to cut it the Pirate led to eight with just over ten minutes left in the first half, but this would be as close as the Indians would get on the evening.
Newberry shot a respectable 37.5% from the floor in the first half. The five points totaled by David Hampton (Orangeburg, S.C.) were enough to lead the Indians going into the intermission, as East Carolina held on to a 50-23 advantage. The Pirates were led by Japhet McNeil (Brooklyn, N.C.) who notched 12 of his 14 points in the first half.
The Pirates went on to shoot 48.5 percent on 32-of-66 shooting from the floor en route to the 45-point victory. East Carolina also hit 5-of-15 3pt field-goals for the game.
It was the first traveling exhibition for the Indians, but it’s not their last, as Newberry invades Myrtle Beach this coming Wednesday for a game at Big South member Coastal Carolina. Newberry kicks off the season November 15th at Georgia College & State University. The Indians will play in the 2004 Mt. Olive Pickle Classic on Nov. 19-20, before making their home debut against Erskine College on Nov. 23.