By Mike Whiteford
For the Gazette
The down-the-floor urgency hasn't changed, but the University of Charleston, making its home debut Tuesday night, unveiled a nice assortment of upgrades, tweaks, modifications and some eye-opening relentlessness.
The most notable addition is point guard Terrell Lipkins, who not only runs the offense efficiently but, unlike his predecessors of recent vintage, scores from all over. He also brings strong national credentials - first-team All-America status and a 26-point average last year at Northland Community College in Minnesota.
Lipkins, a Canton, Ohio, native, gave the Golden Eagles 16 points and 10 assists and, in a demonstration of his grace, quickness and nose for the ball, collected a game-high 16 rebounds as UC opened quickly and defeated Bluefield (Va.) College 107-70 at Eddie King Gym. A crowd of about 300 attended.
So what's the biggest difference in this team and the one that finished second in the West Virginia Conference last year?
"A point guard that can score,'' said UC's third-year coach Mark Downey. "With Terrell out there scoring, it helps that you can put the ball in his hands, and [opponents] have got to guard him. Last year, at times, they didn't guard our point guards. I loved our point guards last year, but they couldn't score the ball. But this team's a little different because Terrell can score it.''
Running the break at every opportunity, the Golden Eagles (3-1) hurried out to a 13-0 lead, did not allow a field goal in the game's first seven minutes and overwhelmed the Rams (4-4) with depth, shooting and defense.
In the first half, in fact, UC shot better than 56 percent and limited the Rams to 22.2 percent in building a 51-18 lead at intermission.
"We had good people on this team last year,'' said junior Xavier Humphrey, who played at Marshall two years ago, "but this year we have more depth, more athleticism. People come in [off the bench] and give us a lot of minutes.''