Nov. 14, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - It may have taken a little while longer than the fans may have liked, but the Fayetteville State Broncos eventually came around to doing what they needed to do against the Barber-Scotia Sabers - run over them.
Actually, leaping over them is perhaps a better and more apt phrase, what with Tim Plummer and Sidney Evans performing their customary high-wire acts above the rim, particularly through the 10-minute 39-13 onslaught in the second half that turned an actual contest into a rout. Of course, senior star Jamel Carpenter's tsunami of 3-pointers added to the Broncos' unstoppable rush, leaving the Felton J. Capel Arena faithful comfortable in their hopes and aspirations for the future of the 2011-12 Fayetteville State Broncos.
Now, though, comes the hard part.
Just three days after its 100-79 season-opening victory, Fayetteville State (1-0) welcomes one of the toughest foes it will face all season as the Broncos and the UNC Pembroke Braves (1-1) rekindle the Interstate-95 rivalry what originally began back in 1969.
Fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in the program's history and picked to place second in the Peach Belt Conference, the Braves enter Capel Arena for Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. tipoff to play the Broncos for the first time in two seasons. The teams last played on Dec. 14, 2009, with Pembroke snapping a six-game skid to FSU by clipping the Broncos 74-72 just a month after Fayetteville State had opened the 2009-10 season with a 100-92 win over the Braves.
Little of that matters now, of course.
Or maybe not.
"Pembroke runs a system that it's run for four years," says Broncos head coach Alphonza Kee
. "They take the appropriate shots, they work well in the post and they push into transition well. They have a very good scheme and guard the ball well. They play in the lanes, play in the gaps and force jump shots. What I'm saying is they run their system, and they run it well. They've done it for four years, and they're now a well-oiled machine."
Despite a 59-53 loss to Coker on Saturday, Pembroke opened its season with a 98-76 victory over St. Andrews to open its season. And the Braves will be far from intimidated, having taken on the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels in an exhibition on Oct. 28 in the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
But this is exactly the kind of opponent the Broncos want to face this season as they hope to contend for a CIAA Southern Division crown.
"That's an NCAATournament team," Kee says of the Braves. "Coach Ben Miller has done a great job in four years, and he's built it the right way. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done.
"Part of our scheduling this year is to play good teams. We've got Pembroke, and we've got Barton, a national championship team (in 2007)."
Miller, who served as an assistant under Roy Williams and Bill Self at Kansas, has rebuilt Pembroke from a team that won just nine Peach Belt games in the three years before his arrival to a team that raced to a school-record 18 victories in 2010-11. A year ago, Pembroke ranked eighth in the nation in rebounding.
Four players are already averaging in double figures, including preseason All-American guard Shahmel Brackett, who led the way with 21 points against St. Andrews. Six-foot-9 forward George Blakeney, who had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the opener, is averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds a game to start the season.
But Fayetteville State is capable of matching Pembroke on Tuesday, with preseason All-CIAA selections Evans (Sr., Durham, N.C.) and Carpenter (Sr., Salisbury, N.C.), who led the CIAA in scoring in 2009-10 before redshirting last season. Carpenter hit six 3s in the opener, finishing with a game-high 26 points. Plummer was electric, sharing the team lead with nine rebounds to go with 14 points and a game-high five steals.
Still, the Broncos can play better, Kee said.
"We've got to do better getting back in transition," he said. "We need to execute a little better. We need to stop the ball in transition and just guard and communicate better.
"We need to make teams guard us in our offense, make them guard us in the interior. Sometimes we take quick shots, and then teams are able to get out and run."
This will be a chance for Fayetteville State to turn some heads in the early season.
"We did score 100 points, and anytime you do that, that's a positive. And I don't think we played our best," Kee said.