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November 27, 2008

Gardner-Webb enjoys trip to Oklahoma

Biggest Oklahoma Sooners football fans at the moment?

The Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs basketball team.

Coach Rick Scruggs and his team pushed the Sooners to the brink on the basketball court on Friday night then got treated to the Sooners-Texas Tech football game on Saturday.

"That was sort of a strange story," Scruggs told Rivals.com. "I was talking to Mark Cline, one of their assistants, about scheduling a game with them. He and I are friends, and I'm friends with Jeff [Capel, OU's head coach] and his dad [Jeff Capel II was the longtime coach at Old Dominion and currently is an assistant for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats]. I brought it up, said if there's a football game we'd love to go. He said, 'We'll check and see.'

"We didn't know what the football schedule looked like, but he said they could probably do it. It turned out to be Texas Tech, and the closer it got it looked like we might not be able to get the tickets [with the Red Raiders unbeaten and ranked No. 2 and the Sooners at No. 5]. They said it was one of the hardest tickets to get they've ever had."

Scruggs said he would have understood if OU said it couldn't accommodate his team. But the Sooners stuck to their word.

"They were first class all the way," Scruggs said. "We sat in the first and second rows in the end zone. We actually had to walk on the field to get to our seats. That's how close we were. The first four touchdowns were scored right in front of us.

"Their [basketball] players can't even sit in those seats because that would be considered an extra benefit. I didn't want them to be mad at how good our seats were. I was kidding their players that whoever lost the game [Friday night] got those seats."

Scruggs said despite the 80-76 loss it was a great trip.

"Our guys getting to see that atmosphere is something they will never forget," Scruggs said. "It was a big game and we'd never get a chance to see something like that."

The Runnin' Bulldogs hung around with the Sooners till the very end. They simply had no answers for OU power forward Blake Griffin, who finished with 35 points, 21 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Scruggs, whose team shocked Kentucky 84-68 in Lexington early last season, had some very interesting comments regarding Griffin. The teams also met last year at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.

"He's so much better than last year," said Scruggs, who is in his 14th season at the Gardner-Webb helm. "It's amazing how much he has matured. He's taking games over. He didn't take it over on us last year [OU won 69-55 and Griffin had 17 points and eight rebounds]. We double-teamed him and triple-teamed him, and he beat everything we threw at him. He was the difference in the game. If they don't have him we win going away.

"I think he's just got that mentality right now. He's playing with greater urgency, trying to prove something every night. His energy level is better, he's handling the ball better [and] he shot it better outside. He was beating double-teams like he was beating somebody one-on-one. I've watched the tape already a thousand times and I'm not sure what we could have done differently. Maybe doubled him before he got the ball."

Gardner-Webb has been a Division I team for only eight seasons. The Runnin' Bulldogs are 0-4 this season, but their first three losses were by a total of eight points before Tuesday's 85-70 setback at South Carolina. Scruggs' team is in its first year in the Big South after moving over from the Atlantic Sun.

"We've played some great schools, but that's by far the best performance against us in our eight years of Division I," Scruggs said of Griffin. "He gives them options not many people have."

TRIVIA QUESTION

When Gardner-Webb beat Kentucky last season to hand Billy Gillispie his first loss as Wildcats coach, it was the first time UK had lost at home to an unranked non-conference opponent since Dec. 3, 2005. Who was the last team before the Runnin' Bulldogs to turn the trick?

XAVIER FRESHMAN GUARD OUT 2-4 WEEKS

After returning from winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with an upset of Memphis, Xavier learned that freshman point guard Terrell Holloway has a low-grade stress fracture in his left foot that could sideline him for two to four weeks.

Holloway is averaging 7.8 points in the Musketeers' strong 5-0 start that also includes victories over Missouri and Virginia Tech. The former four-star prospect whom Rivals.com ranked No. 18 at his position and No. 100 overall has made 27 of 28 free throws on the young season (96.4 percent), making him not only XU's best free-throw shooter but also its player getting to the line the most.

Holloway almost assuredly will miss the Musketeers' next three games, all at home. It's possible judging by the time frame that he could return for the Crosstown Shootout with rival Cincinnati on Dec. 13. If he can't make that he can rest another week before Xavier travels to the Aeropostale Classic at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Dec. 20 to take on Duke.

Holloway originally signed with Indiana but had an agreement with the school that if Kelvin Sampson was not the coach or the team was banned from the postseason he would be allowed out of his letter of intent.

TIP-INS

Baylor freshman Quincy Acy, a 6-7 forward, missed his first shot of the season Monday night against Jacksonville. He made his first 20 field-goal attempts before missing with 11:07 to go in the first half against the Dolphins. So he's now shooting only 95.2 percent (20 of 21). Mississippi State is off to a 5-0 start behind reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado. The 6-9 junior already has 37 blocks, no fewer than six in any game. Pittsburgh center DeJuan Blair did not play in the Panthers' 74-60 victory over Belmont on Tuesday night because of a swollen right knee. Sam Young filled the void and scored 33 points. Liberty upset Virginia on Tuesday night to hand the Cavaliers their first loss. Flames guard Seth Curry, the younger brother of Davidson guard Stephen Curry, scored 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He had four 3-pointers. In the long run North Carolina may benefit greatly from the early season absence of Tyler Hansbrough. Yes, he's back, but while he was gone junior forward Deon Thompson played like a go-to guy and appears to have gained a great deal of confidence. If it beats College of Charleston on Friday on the road, South Carolina (4-0) has a very good chance to be 10-0 when it plays host to Clemson on Dec. 30. The Tigers (6-0) have a couple of tough games in between, at Illinois on Dec. 2 and at Miami on Dec. 21 in its ACC opener. If they can win both they'll come into the showdown with the Gamecocks 12-0.

TRIVIA ANSWER

An unranked North Carolina team beat Kentucky 83-79 behind Reyshawn Terry's 25 points on Dec. 3, 2005.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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