Feb. 25, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

The Clafin University men’s basketball team is making the most of their first chance at competing for championships this season after clinching the No. 1 seed in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament with a 59-56 win over Albany State last weekend.

This summer, the Panthers became a full-fledged active NCAA Division II member after three years of provisional status during a transition from the NAIA.  During that time, Clafin was not eligible to compete in postseason conference and NCAA tournaments.

Clafin, ranked No. 9 in the latest NABC Division II poll, has posted a 22-2 record this season, and will conclude the regular season by hosting Miles College on Feb. 25.  Miles is one of only two teams to defeat the Panthers this season.

CRUSING ALONG:  Southwest Minnesota State jumped five spots in the latest NABC Division II Top 25 to No. 14 after extending its winning streak to 13 games with a victory over Minnesota State, Mankato on Feb. 21.  It is their highest national ranking since the 2000-01 season.

The Mustangs currently sit in first place in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings thanks to their second-longest winning streak in school history.  They hold a one-game lead over No. 20 Winona State, and can claim at least a share of the conference title with a win over Wayne State on Feb. 25, or a Winona State loss to Upper Iowa.  SMSU’s only NSIC title was won in the 2000-01 season.

GOLDEN BOYS:  Kutztown kept up its winning ways as the Golden Bears remained on top of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East standings with a pair of victories over divisional opponents last week.

Junior guard Stephen Dennis collected his third PSAC East Player of the Week award after averaging 24.5 points and 6.5 assists in wins over West Chester and Shippensburg, giving the Golden Bears at least a share of the PSAC East title.  Dennis shot 53.3 percent from the field for the week and grabbed 4.5 rebounds per game, helping Kutztown run its winning streak to 11 games.

Kutztown has set school records with 22 overall wins and 11 PSAC East victories, and worked its way into the latest national poll at No. 24.  The Golden Bears will host Cheyney on Feb. 25 for a chance to win the PSAC East title. A win also would complete the perfect regular season at home. The Golden Bears are 13-0 at Keystone Hall.

KEEPING PACE:  USC Aiken remained in the race for the Peach Belt Conference regular season title as the Pacers posted a 3-0 mark last week behind the stellar play of junior forward Josh Dollard.

The native of Hemingway, S.C., notched three double-doubles, averaging 18 points and 12.3 rebounds per game for the week.  Dollard, who was named PBC Player of the Week, now has seven double-doubles on the year.

The Pacers are currently tied with No. 5 Augusta State for first place in the Peach Belt Conference with identical 15-3 marks in league action. No. 11 USC Aiken looks to its second straight PBC title as the Pacers take on Clayton State on Feb. 25, and then host Georgia College & State on Feb. 28.

BACK ON TOP: Southwest Baptist University regained sole possession of first place in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association standings as the No. 4 Bearcats stretched their winning streak to seven games last week. 
Senior guard D’Ante Harris poured in a career-best 31 points in an 86-84 win over Fort Hays State on Feb. 18, and then added 16 points as the Bearcats downed Nebraska-Omaha over the weekend.  Harris was named MIAA Player of the Week for his efforts.