Game Notes: Belhaven, WCU next on tap for fourth-ranked Hawks
By Matt Green
Jan. 6: #4 Hawks (13-0) vs. Belhaven (6-9)
Jan. 7: #4 Hawks vs. William Carey (7-6)
All games at Winthrop-King Centre
ROME -- Still unbeaten, the Shorter men's basketball team returns to Southern States Athletic Conference play this Friday and Saturday, Jan. 6 and 7, when it welcomes Belhaven University and William Carey University to the Winthrop-King Centre.
Shorter will square off against Belhaven at 7:30 pm on Friday night before closing out the two-day conference tilt at 5 pm on Saturday versus current SSAC West Division leader William Carey.
The fourth-ranked Hawks (13-0, 4-0 SSAC) sit in a tie atop the SSAC East Division standings with Southern Poly entering this weekend's conference action and are looking to complete a clean sweep of the SSAC West Division -- Shorter's four league wins have come against West Division members Auburn-Montgomery, Faulkner, Loyola and preseason West Division favorite Mobile.
Friday night's game begins a five-game stretch of conference games for Shorter. Four of those five games will take place at the Winthrop-King Centre -- including the Jan. 19 showdown with Southern Poly (8 pm) -- with Shorter's lone road venture during the span coming on Jan. 14 at defending SSAC champion Emmanuel College (4 pm).
First thing is first for the Hawks, however, as Belhaven and William Carey are sure to put Shorter's unblemished record under heavy fire.
A Top 25 team last season, Belhaven has struggled to a pedestrian 6-9 start to 2011-12 and comes into Friday night's game with a 1-3 mark in the SSAC. Despite the early season setbacks, the Blazers do have some momentum thanks to a three-game winning streak that began on Dec. 17 with a 75-65 win over SSAC East Division member Truett-McConnell.
Since, Belhaven has blown out Rust College by 30 and Mississippi College by 19 -- both at home -- and is 4-2 since December, slowly beginning to resemble the team that earned the West Division's third seed in last year's SSAC Tournament.
6-foot-6 forward Daryl Arnold paces Belhaven at 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Joining Arnold in double figures is 6-3 guard Woodie Howard, who is shooting 35 percent from 3 and putting up an even 12 points a game. Arnold ranks in the top 20 in the country in steals with 33 on the year.
William Carey (7-6, 4-0), picked to finish second in the West Division according to the SSAC Coaches Preseason Poll, will take on Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., before heading to Rome on Saturday. The Crusaders have not played since a five-point win at Southern Wesleyan on Dec. 17, but have won two straight after dropping three consecutive games in a five-day span in December.
William Carey's leading scorer Brandon Givens (18.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg) has not played in the team's last two outings, but 6-foot guard Roderick Little is more than capable of picking up the slack left by Givens.
Little comes into the weekend averaging 16.5 points and 4.0 rebounds. He isn't shy from the field -- Little leads the team in shots and aside from Givens, the next closest player has taken 100 fewer shot attempts -- and has gotten to the foul line a team-high 89 times where he is shooting 66 percent.
Saturday's matchup will be an intriguing battle between one of the country's top shooting teams and one of the nation's best defensive squads.
Shorter enters Friday and Saturday's action ranked No. 10 in the country in team field goal percentage at 50 percent while the Hawks are third in the NAIA in 3-point field goal percentage (42 percent).
William Carey will counter with the nation's 16th-best 3-point field goal percentage defense, which is holding opponents to 28 percent from beyond the arc. The Crusaders are yielding just 66 points a game.
Fans can follow both games on 95.7 WATG-FM The Ridge or by accessing the live webcast available via the link titled "LISTEN to Hawk Athletics" under FAN ZONE on the Shorter Athletics website. Live stats are available through Dakstats.