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Oxford Eagles back on the road after two wins

OXFORD -- Fresh off a red-hot 2-0 start, the Oxford College men's basketball team will continue their traveling ways, with the Eagles playing their next four games on the road before returning to Williams Gymnasium on Nov. 20.

The Eagles, flying high after victories over Truett-McConnell's junior varsity (90-67 on Nov. 1) and the Southern Wesleyan JV (82-64 on Nov. 5), will play at 7 p.m. today against Shorter University's junior varsity in Rome and then again at 2 p.m. Saturday in a return date with Truett-McConnell in Cleveland.

"Our young team was anxious and excited to get started," said assistant coach Aaron Snipes on Tuesday. "We really did our homework against Truett-McConnell and their good guards. We tried to match up with them and get out on the break for easy points and we were able to do that.

"With Southern Wesleyan, we were just ready to get out on the road. We came out strong and executed our game plan. We got up by 20 points and then we just couldn't seem to score. They closed the gap, but then we came back and really played well in the last five minutes of the game."

Against Truett-McConnell, sophomore Stephen Simmons led the way with 21 points and he was followed by a trio of freshmen, former Newton standout Alex Ordu (13 points), Byron Stufken (11 points) and Richard Obiora (11 points).

In the victory at Southern Wesleyan, freshman Zachary Lynn came off the bench to score 20 points, going 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc and making all seven of his field goal tries in nearly 27 minutes of play. Lynn was followed by fellow freshmen Kevin Tolbert (13 points) and Ordu (11 points).

While the Eagles appear to be excelling in most every facet of the game, Snipes was particularly pleased with the team's free-throw shooting which was dreadful during Oxford's two preseason games. After shooting 50 percent (14 of 28) in exhibition play, the Eagles are shooting a much more palatable 75 percent (40 of 53) in the regular season.

"Our guys are finding out the game is a lot easier when you hit your free throws," said Snipes. "We did a nice job against Truett-McConnell, making 23 of 26. We weren't quite as good with Southern Wesleyan going 17 of 27. We want our team to be mindful that when you go to the hole a lot, foul shots can make up a good portion of your points. We practice free throws -- I promise."

Coming into the season with 11 freshmen on a 15-player roster, Stubbs and his staff knew they'd be relying heavily on rookies and Snipes said the new players are blending in well in the gym and on campus.

"It's a great group of kids," he said. "We're really proud of how quickly they gelled. They go to class together, eat together, study together -- they're friends. We're averaging about 20 assists per game, which shows you that guys are on the lookout for each other on the floor. We're really excited because there are no unselfish players.

"But they've still got a lot to learn and the biggest thing they have to learn is taking that classroom seriously. That's a much bigger challenge than the basketball side. You've got to grow up quickly, on and off the court. They have to understand what's really important, and that's handling your business in the classroom."