FLORENCE, S.C. – After an eight-day break for Christmas, the Francis Marion University men’s basketball team returns to action Wednesday (Dec. 29) when the Patriots face 13th-ranked Bentley College in the opening round of the 30th-annual Winter Park (Fla.) Rotary Tangerine Tournament, hosted by Rollins College.
The 4-3 Patriots will face the 10-2 Falcons in the tournament’s opening game at 6 p.m. Coker College (2-4) plays 23rd-ranked Rollins (7-2) at 8 p.m. The consolation and championship games are set for 6 and 8 p.m. on Thursday. Live game statistics can be followed at www.rollins.edu/athletics/
This will be the first-ever meeting between FMU and Bentley, which is located in Waltham, Mass.
Senior 6-6 forward Louis McCullough continues to lead FMU in most statistical categories, including scoring (20.4 ppg), rebounding (8.9 rpg), field goal percentage (62.1%), and blocked shots (24). He occupies fifth place on the Patriot career scoring list with 1,504 points, only 30 points shy of former swingman Jerry Lattimore and his fourth-place total set between 1982 and 1986. With 713 career rebounds, McCullough needs only three more to pass Patrick Callaway (1983-87) for fourth place on that career FMU list. McCullough also owns 135 career blocked shots, one shy of Terance Wood’s (1985-89) second-place total and 24 away from the Allen Wilson’s (1996-99) school record of 159.
Two other Patriots are scoring in double figures: junior guard Michael Jenkins (12.7 ppg) and senior forward Andrew Snipe (11.4 ppg). Jenkins is also handing out 5.3 assists per contest.
Francis Marion will gain the services of 6-6 sophomore forward Abdullah Elsayed (ab-DULL-ah El-SAY-ed), who recently joined the squad after transferring from St. Clair College in Canada. He joins another newcomer, 6-8 sophomore center Kevin Ashford from Stockbridge, Ga., who played his first FMU contest on Dec. 20 against Presbyterian College.
However, the Patriots have lost 6-3 senior forward George Walker for the season due to a knee injury. Walker, who averaged 3.1 ppg last season and was a probable starter for this season, suffered his injury during preseason practice and will now seek a medical redshirt for the 2004-05 campaign.
Bentley is off to its best start in 12 years and has won its last seven games. The Falcons are led by 6-0 junior guard Tim Forbes who is averaging 18 .3 points and 4.1 assists per game. Senior 6-6 center Greg Lacasse is averaging 11 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Bentley is averaging 80.3 ppg, while shooting 46 percent from the field, including 38 percent on its three-point attempts.
Following the tournament, Francis Marion will play its first home game of the season in the Smith University Center, Jan. 3 against Mount Olive College at 7:30 p.m.
Ohio University defeated Seton Hall University 84-82 for in the inaugural Tangerine Tournament title in 1970. Many top NCAA Division I programs participated in the tournament, before it became a Division II event in the late 1980’s.