Trojans not afraid of Hilltoppers
Anderson facing unbeaten West Liberty in first Elite Eight trip
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Kevis Cornwell is one of the best defenders on the Anderson (S.C.) basketball team. The senior guard will have to be at his best Wednesday when the Trojans battle West Liberty State, the top-ranked team in the nation, at the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
“All five guys can shoot,” Cornwell said. “We have to be alert and be ready to contest shots. We also have to be ready to get long rebounds because they are going to shoot a lot of 3-pointers.”
Cornwell has come through with 52 steals this season, the second-highest total on the team, and he is one of the reasons the Trojans (21-11) are here for the first time in school history.
Cornwell said he is enjoying the moment as the Trojans prepare to battle the unbeaten Hilltoppers (35-0) in a 6 p.m. national quarterfinal at the MassMutual Center.
“It is hard to put it into words what it means to be here,” Cornwell said. “It’s been a lot of fun and I’m enjoying the moment.”
Anderson needed to beat one of the best teams in the nation to reach the Elite Eight.
The Trojans faced third-ranked Augusta State in the Sweet 16 and escaped a grueling battle with a 75-73 win in overtime. The win is even more impressive when you consider that Anderson was seeded seventh in the regional and squaring off against an Augusta team that had played in the last three Elite Eights.
‘I feel like we have a lot of confidence,” Anderson head coach Jason Taylor said. “We beat very good teams to get here and we will be ready for the next challenge.”
Anderson comes into Wednesday's game averaging 80.4 points per outing. The Trojans are giving up 76 points per game and will be up against a West Liberty squad that has an average point total that borders on ridiculous, 111.6 per outing.
The Hilltoppers have attempted 1,131 treys on the season and have knocked down 473. To put that in perspective, Anderson has only attempted 708 3-pointers as a team.
“We have to limit them to one shot. That is going to be a big priority,” Taylor said. “They are going to get shots and they are going to make shots. It’s the second opportunities that we have to eliminate.”
|Minnesota State||West Liberty|
Denzail Jones, a freshman guard, is the leading scorer for the Trojans. He is averaging 12.3 ppg while Cornwell is pumping in 12.2.
Senior guard Brandon Young (12.1 ppg), senior forward/center Trey Britton (10.5) and junior guard Nick Trull have also been solid contributors for the Trojans. Junior center Taylor Shugart is the top rebounder on the squad, pulling down 6.5 per game, and Anderson is averaging 32.4 rebounds per outing.
Winning this game, though, is going to come down to defense and Taylor said his team has made a lot of strides on that end of the floor this season.
“Our defensive rotations have improved a ton,” Taylor said. “We have done a better job on help defense and our zone defenses have improved. Collectively, we have gotten better as a team.”
Cornwell agrees and he is ready to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
“We’ve made it this far. We feel like we do have a chance to go all the way,” Cornwell said.