By Mike WhitefordFor the GazetteThe down-the-floor urgency hasn't changed, but the University of Charleston, making its home debut Tuesday night, unveiled a nice assortment of upgrades, tweaks, modifications and some eye-opening relentlessness.The most notable addition is point guard Terrell Lipkins, who not only runs the offense efficiently but, unlike his predecessors of recent vintage, scores from all over. He also brings strong national credentials - first-team All-America status and a 26-point average last year at Northland Community College in Minnesota.
Lipkins, a Canton, Ohio, native, gave the Golden Eagles 16 points and 10 assists and, in a demonstration of his grace, quickness and nose for the ball, collected a game-high 16 rebounds as UC opened quickly and defeated Bluefield (Va.) College 107-70 at Eddie King Gym. A crowd of about 300 attended.So what's the biggest difference in this team and the one that finished second in the West Virginia Conference last year?"A point guard that can score,'' said UC's third-year coach Mark Downey. "With Terrell out there scoring, it helps that you can put the ball in his hands, and [opponents] have got to guard him. Last year, at times, they didn't guard our point guards. I loved our point guards last year, but they couldn't score the ball. But this team's a little different because Terrell can score it.''Running the break at every opportunity, the Golden Eagles (3-1) hurried out to a 13-0 lead, did not allow a field goal in the game's first seven minutes and overwhelmed the Rams (4-4) with depth, shooting and defense.In the first half, in fact, UC shot better than 56 percent and limited the Rams to 22.2 percent in building a 51-18 lead at intermission."We had good people on this team last year,'' said junior Xavier Humphrey, who played at Marshall two years ago, "but this year we have more depth, more athleticism. People come in [off the bench] and give us a lot of minutes.''The Golden Eagles, who finished with a 52.3 shooting percentage on the night, also picked up 20 points from Humphrey and 18 off the bench from Hayden Annett, who hit 5 of 7, all from 3-point distance. Starter Corey Jackson and reserves Fred Simpson and Quincy Washington added 10 each.In its first three games, UC shot 50.3 percent from the field, including 43.8 on 3-pointers."We can all shoot it,'' said Downey. "All five positions on the floor can shoot it. People aren't going to be able to zone us like they did last year. We went through a 10-game stretch last year where people zoned us every game.''Continued hot shooting should make life easier for Lipkins. "We have so many shooters and me being a shooter and a point guard, it gives me the open floor to make a move or make a play,'' said Lipkins. "And if I don't have anything, I kick it out to one of our shooters.''
Improving on last year's success, however, won't be easy. The Golden Eagles were 26-7 overall and 18-4 in the WVC but lost in overtime to West Liberty in the conference tournament title game and suffered a first-round loss to Wheeling Jesuit in regional play.Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.