OXFORD -- In mid-November, the Oxford College men's basketball team was experiencing a bit of turbulence, losing three of four games and battling illness and injury. Suffice it to say, the college's Thanksgiving break came at exactly the right time.
Winners of their last five games, the Eagles are again on a respite, this time for final exams. While Oxford coach Roderick Stubbs understands all too well that breaks are a common part of every team's season, he hopes his squad can maintain the momentum they enjoyed in early December.
"We were really starting to click and play well and then we had a break for exams," Stubbs said Tuesday afternoon. "And we'll come back and play an important conference game on Saturday and then we'll be off for winter break and won't play again until January. Breaks are part of it, but it seems like they're coming at a bad time."
Oxford (9-3 overall, 1-0 in GCAA's Region 17) will return to action at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Middle Georgia Technical College in Fort Valley. The Titans, coached by Bobby Brown, are 7-8 overall and have a 1-0 mark in the conference, the only team besides the Eagles that hasn't lost a league game.
The Eagles can expect an intense evening against Middle Georgia Tech, which touts the conference's leading scorer, point guard Javarus Mallard, who is averaging 22.8 points per game (which is 14th best nationally). Jeffrey Gulley averages 10.4 points per game for the Titans and is followed by Brandyn Little (8.6 ppg) and Darius Walker (8.4 ppg).
"Middle Georgia is one of the taller teams in our conference," Stubbs said, noting the Titans have five players standing 6-foot-4 or taller, including 6-7 forward Dwayne Bryant, who averages eight rebounds per night. "They're very athletic and their point guard is the leading scorer in the conference. And we'll be going to their place, which will be another challenge."
Sophomore Stephen Simmons leads Oxford with 12.3 points per game and is followed closely by former Newton High standout Alex Ordu, who has averaged 11.6 points, Kevin Tolbert (10.5 ppg) and Byron Stufken (10.3 ppg). Freshman Samuel Kim is the conference's leading rebounder, averaging 10 per game.
The scoring balance that shows up on the stat sheet pleases Stubbs, who noted that in the Eagles' last game an 81-62 victory over the Tennessee-Temple junior varsity four players scored in double figures and a fifth player (Kim) finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Ordu led the way with 27 points (including an 8-for-8 night at the free-throw line) and was followed by Simmons (11 points), Zachary Lynn (11 points) and Tolbert (10 points).
"Tennessee-Temple was another night of well-balanced scoring for us," Stubbs said. "Alex definitely had the best game of the season -- they couldn't keep him out of the scoring area and he was able to get a lot of easy baskets and get to the foul line. He had a great game."
Final exams conclude today at Oxford and the team will gather for its first practice in several days in preparation for Saturday's contest. And Stubbs is happy to report he's got a full complement of healthy players.
"We should have everybody healthy on Saturday," he said. "It's nice to have everyone healthy and ready to play. With our roster, it's also nice to be able to choose players to come in and contribute to a game, depending on the situation."
After the Christmas break, the Eagles will begin the 2012 portion of the season in Florida, facing Brevard Community College on Friday, Jan. 6, and Pasco-Hernando Community College on Sunday, Jan. 8. After a game at Huntington (Ala.) College (Jan. 14) and a home game against the junior varsity of Bryant (Tenn.) College (Jan. 19), Oxford will re-start conference play on Jan. 21, hosting West Georgia Technical College at historic Williams Gymnasium.
For more information on Oxford College's men's basketball team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics.