FLORENCE, S.C. – The unbeaten Francis Marion University women’s basketball team remained 17th in this week’s USA TODAY ESPN Division II Top 25 coaches’ poll released on Tuesday (Dec. 15) night. FMU (7-0) is preparing for a tough weekend that will see the Patriots play three games in less than 48 hours.
Francis Marion will play Tusculum College (6-1) on Friday (Dec. 18) at 7:30 p.m. on the opening day of the OrthoCarolina Classic in Wingate, N.C. The Patriots will play the host school, Wingate University (4-3), on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
On Sunday, FMU will face Bluefield College (8-5) at 1 p.m. in the opening game of the Carolina’s Challenge in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. That event will also have the University of North Carolina playing the University of South Carolina at 3 p.m. and Coastal Carolina University facing Savannah State University at 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for the tripleheader.
FMU is one of 24 unbeaten squads in the nation and the Patriots lead Division II in scoring offense (93.3 ppg), scoring margin (+34.1 ppg), assists per game (23 apg), steals per game (22.6 spg), and turnover margin (+19.43).
Junior Shannon Singleton-Bates leads the Patriots in scoring at 14.8 ppg, while 5-10 senior center Precious Tucker is averaging 13.4 ppg and leads the team in rebounding at 8.6 rpg. Senior forward Nicole Mealing is also scoring in double figures at 11.1 ppg.
Junior point guard Robin Colbert leads the nation in steals per game at 5.9 per contest and has amassed 41 steals and 38 assists in the seven games while committing only 14 turnovers.
Tusculum is led by 4-11 junior guard Jasmine Gunn, a Preseason Women’s Division II Bulletin All-American selection, who is averaging 17.6 ppg and 4.3 apg. Freshman 5-5 guard Kendal Baxter is adding 15.3 ppg, while nailing 43.9 percent of her three-point attempts. The Pioneers’ only loss was to Peach Belt Conference member Georgia College & State University (78-63). Tusculum is the two-time defending South Atlantic Conference champion and has advanced to the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons.
FMU lost its only previous meeting with Tusculum, 71-61 four seasons ago in Greeneville, Tenn., while the Patriots trail 7-6 in the all-time series with Wingate. Francis Marion and Bluefield will be meeting for the first time.
After being unranked in the 2009-10 preseason poll, Francis Marion has appeared in each of the four regular-season polls at 22nd, 18th, 17th, and 17th.
Michigan Tech (7-0) was a near unanimous choice for the top spot again this week, receiving 22 of 26 first-place votes. FMU is one of three Peach Belt Conference schools in this week’s rankings.
Fans can follow the live stats for the OrthoCarolina Classic at http://www.sidearmstats.com/wingate/wbball/index.htm , while the site for the Carolina’s Challenge will be http://beachballclassic.com.ccgdev.com/Schedule/LIVEStats/tabid/67/Default.aspx