(All times listed are central)
Friday Nov. 26 Games
McNeese State vs. St. Francis Brooklyn, 11 a.m., ECC TV
Samford vs. North Carolina A&T 1:30 p.m., ECC TV
Penn State vs. LSU, 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Oregon State vs. Wake Forest, 8:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Saturday, Nov. 27 Games
Loser of McNeese State/St. Francis Brooklyn vs. Loser of Samford/North Carolina A&T, 10 a.m., ECC TV
Winner of McNeese State/St. Francis Brooklyn vs. Winner of Samford/North Carolina A&T, 12:30 p.m. ECC TV
Loser of Penn State/LSU vs. Loser of Oregon State/Wake Forest, 3 p.m., ECC TV
Winner of Penn State/LSU vs. Winner of Oregon State/Wake Forest, 6 p.m. CBS Sports Network
LOCAL TOURISM INDUSTRY WINS BIG: The Emerald Coast Classic basketball tournament brings some of the biggest names in college hoops to Okaloosa County.
It also injects tourism dollars into the local economy during a time of year when business typically slows down for many hotels and restaurants, according to officials at Global Sports, the tournament’s organizer.
Maury Hanks, CEO of Global Sports, is trying to spread the word about both benefits, noting the economic impact of an eight-team tournament is estimated at $1.7 million.
“We use up between 400 and 500 hotel rooms a night, and that’s before any fans get involved,” Hanks said. “All those people are either eating at the hotels or eating out at your fine restaurants and stuff like that. So financially, I think it does a great job for the area.”
The tournament will be played Thanksgiving weekend Nov. 26-27 at The Arena on the campus of Northwest Florida State College. LSU, Oregon State, Penn State and Wake Forest headline the field for the 2021 tournament.
McNeese State, North Carolina A&T, St. Francis Brooklyn and Samford round out the teams.
Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes, who served as head coach at NWF State from 2011-13, is a longtime friend of Hanks who first seeded the idea of holding the tournament in Niceville.
GAINES DEVELOPING INTO ELITE DEFENDER: It might have been a simple phone call to his mother back home in Georgia.
Or, it might have been a desire to make a difference on the defensive end of the floor.
Then again, it might have been a little of both with some maturity on the side — not to mention a lot of hard work.
Whatever it was, it’s all come together for sophomore guard Eric Gaines and the LSU basketball team through the first four games of the season.
The gangly Gaines has yet to start a game this season after getting the call just once in 29 games a year ago, but he’s been one of the catalysts for LSU (4-0) going into Monday’s 7 p.m. contest with Belmont (3-1) in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Gaines, a 6-foot-2, 150-pounder from Lithonia, Georgia, has given LSU a huge lift off the bench in averaging 9.5 points, 5.3 assists and 2.5 steals while playing 26.1 minutes a game — the third-most on the team behind Brandon Murray (27.6) and Darius Days (27.1).
While mentioning Gaines’ skills on the court, coach Will Wade has also made it a point to praise him for becoming a more mature person.
The blue and white tied a program-record 15 3-pointers, 11 of which came from Sam Sessoms and Seth Lundy, in its 85-74 victory over Cornell.
While the two Nittany Lions’ 45 combined points are the highest by a Penn State duo this season, Sessoms and Lundy have been relatively consistent all of 2021, translating tonight’s dominant showing.
“Me and Seth are, I would say, the most aggressive scorers on the team,” Sessoms said. “[Tonight] is just off of us being aggressive.”
Since the connection between the two on the court is clear, it may not come as too much of a surprise that Sessoms and Lundy are actually roommates.
“That’s my guy,” Sessoms said.
While Sessoms and Lundy were two of only three other Nittany Lions to score in double-digits Monday night, Sessoms said there is no bad blood among teammates when the two are taking what seems like every shot.
“[My teammates] want us to shoot the ball,” Sessoms said. “When we have it going like this we’re a really hard team to beat.”
The two Nittany Lions have recently become vocal leaders in the Penn State locker room, another reason their teammates may feel comfortable with the two taking the majority of looks from the field.
TAKING A STEP FORWARD: Better, but still not close to where Oregon State hopes to get.
Princeton survived a furious finish by the Beavers as the Tigers left Gill Coliseum with an 81-80 win Sunday afternoon.
Princeton (4-1) handed Oregon State its fourth consecutive loss after hitting 13 three-pointers and building a 13-point second-half lead.
Oregon State (1-4) shot 55% from the floor, but made fewer threes and free throws than Princeton. The Tigers out-rebounded the Beavers 37-26.
Dashawn Davis, making his first OSU start, led the Beavers with 16 points. Jarod Lucas scored 13 points and Tre Williams 11 for the Beavers.
OSU coach Wayne Tinkle was encouraged by the defensive progress, following last Thursday’s lackluster performance against Samford.
“Night and day with the focus, with the energy by a bigger percentage of the guys. It led to a better performance,” Tinkle said. “We showed a lot more discipline, character and togetherness than we’ve shown.”
LARAVIA SPURS WAKE FOREST WIN: Wake Forest completed the early season portion of its mid-major schedule with another lopsided victory on Tuesday night.
The Deacons dominated all areas of play from start to finish as they overwhelmed Kennesaw State 92-61 at Joel Coliseum.
Wake Forest has outscored its five opponents by an average of 24 points and the Deacons are one of only three unbeaten ACC teams. The other two are No. 5 Duke and Virginia Tech. The Deacons open their ACC schedule against the Hokies on Dec. 4 in Blacksburg, Va.
Wake Forest featured a balanced attack with five double-figure scorers: Jake LaRavia (19), Isaiah Mucius (15), Alondes Williams (14), Khadim Sy (12) and reserve Cameron Hildreth (11).
The Deacons also had another outstanding shooting night against an outmanned opponent. Wake was 32-of-57 (56 percent) from the field, 10-of-25 (40 percent) from long range and 18-of-24 from the foul line (75 percent).
Mucius, who scored 16-first half points on Saturday against N.C. A&T, scored Wake’s first four field goals, all 3-pointers.
In the past, the Nittany Lions have suffered from high-powered 3-point shooting teams, such as their blowout loss to UMass where the Minuteman drained 13 triples.
However, the blue and white was the team doing the 3-point shooting Monday, tying a Penn State record of 15 three pointers made in a single game.
Going into the locker room after the clock hit zero, the players had no idea that they tied history at the Bryce Jordan Center Monday night.
“It’s a great feeling,” senior guard Sam Sessoms said. “It was just pretty fun just to be a part of anything in basketball history.”
A major reason for Penn State’s 3-point success was Sessoms, who was 6-7 from 3-point range, his best all season.
At one point, he connected on four 3-pointers in a row, putting Penn State up before the end of the first half.
UNDERRATED SCHEDULE: We’re three games into the season for LSU men’s basketball, and it’s clear to most people how talented this team is. What’s not as clear is how difficult some of these games are, which make the performances all the more impressive.
LSU tallied an impressive 74-58 win over a talented Liberty team, in a game where the score doesn’t tell the full story. Down 52-47 with just over six minutes left in the game, LSU closed out the game on a 27-6 run, which allowed them to escape with a 16-point victory.
Coming into the game, Head Coach Will Wade gave a lot of praise to Liberty, who was coming off its second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. After the game, Wade talked about the significance of a win over a team like Liberty and the importance of scheduling these games.
“It’s a huge test. We knew that,” Wade said. “On Selection Sunday this will be one of our six or seven best wins.”
It’s hard to say a team survived a scare when they won by double digits, but that’s just how…
Liberty is neither the first nor the last tough matchup the Tigers have in non-conference play, as Wade put an emphasis on scheduling strong early in the season. A matchup with Texas State last week was the first of these games, which LSU won 84-59 despite trailing at halftime. Despite not making the tournament last season, Texas State finished the year 19-7 and returned almost its entire roster.
Each game so far this season has been a step up in competition, and that will continue as non-conference play continues. Over Thanksgiving Week, LSU will travel to Niceville, Florida, to play in the Emerald Coast Classic alongside Penn State, Oregon State and Wake Forest. LSU will start by playing Penn State and then either Oregon State or Wake Forest depending on how each game goes. All three teams are solid programs who will provide a good test to this LSU team.
FEELING OUT PROCESS CONTINUES: Micah Shrewsberry and his Penn State men’s basketball team are still in the “feeling out” process of their time together. Shrewsberry has been the Nittany Lions coach for almost eight months and only three games. He’s still learning his players, and his players, including a handful of transfers new to the program, are learning their coach.
So Shrewsberry wasn’t quite sure what the reaction would be early in the second half of last Thursday’s game against St. Francis Brooklyn at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Terriers made three 3-pointers in the opening four-and-a-half minutes of the half, and Shrewsberry didn’t like what he saw.
He made wholesale changes. Forward Seth Lundy and guards Sam Sessoms, Jalen Pickett and Myles Dread headed to the bench. Forwards Jalanni White and Caleb Dorsey and guards Jaheam Cornwall and Dallion Johnson entered the game. Forward John Harrar was the only one who remained.
Shrewsberry wanted to see his team respond on the defensive line. He got what he was looking for down the stretch of Penn State’s 74-59 victory.
“That was a total chance right there, wasn’t it?” Shrewsberry said postgame. “That was a flip of a dice. … But I knew those guys would play hard.”
Nov. 22: LSU-Belmont Highlights
Nov. 22: Stout Defense Keys 89-53 Win
Nov. 22: LSU-Belmont Radio Archive
Nov. 22: Days Named SEC Player Of Week
Nov. 21: Tough Test Awaits LSU
Nov. 19: Wade Recaps McNeese Win
Nov. 19: Darius Days Podcast Interview
Nov. 17: LSU Looks For Complete Game
Nov. 22: Rataj Joins Program
Nov. 22: Davis Impressive Off Bench
Nov. 21: Beavers Fall To Princeton
Nov. 20: Princeton Preview
Nov. 19: Oregon State Hosts Princeton
Nov. 18: Beavers Drop Thriller To Samford
Nov. 22: Late Run Lifts Penn State
Nov. 22: Takeaways From Cornell Win
Nov. 21: Penn State Hosts Undefeated Cornell
Nov. 19: High Early Season Standard
Nov. 18: Sessions Orchestrates Victory
Nov. 18: Bounce Back Home Victory
Nov. 23: Post-Kennesaw Press Conference
Nov. 22: Demon Deacons Seek 5-0 Start
Nov. 22: Pre-Kennesaw Press Conference
Nov. 20: Wake Forest Extends Perfect Start
Nov. 20: Marsh Makes Wake Forest Debut
Nov. 19: Demon Deacons Set to Host Aggies
Nov. 18: Demon Deacons Win Twice At Home
Nov. 18: Transfer LaRavia Shows Versatility
Nov. 17: Williamson Reaches Historic Mark
Nov. 23: Warren Returns To Lead McNeese
Nov. 22: Cowboys Host Cougars
Nov. 21: Shumate Records First Double-Double
Nov. 17: McNeese Visits LSU
Nov. 14: Cowboys Prepare For Home Opener
NORTH CAROLINA A&T
Nov. 24: Late Rally Dooms Aggies
Nov. 20: Aggies Fall at Wake Forest
Nov. 18: Strong Second Half Keys Win
Nov. 18: Aggies Open Home Campaign
Nov. 18: Balanced Scoring Keys Upset Win
Nov. 15: Samford Begins West Coast Swing
ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN
Nov. 23: Terriers Fall To Rival St. John’s
Nov. 18: Terriers Tumble At Penn State
Nov. 13: Terriers Drop Home Opener