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Young Oxford team succeeds in exhibition play

OXFORD -- If Oxford College basketball coach Roderick Stubbs wanted his team to experience a variety of on-court situations with exhibition games against Fundamentals 4 Success and Central Georgia Technical College, he more than got his wish.

After a relatively easy 73-52 victory Oct. 15 over Fundamentals 4 Success, a game in which they held the lead almost from the beginning, the Eagles had to play a desperate game of catch-up last Saturday to snag a 64-63 victory over Central Georgia.

Stubbs said he was pleased his team -- which includes 11 freshmen -- was able to get back in the game after trailing by double digits.

With the competition we were playing against, I think the guys were very poised," Stubbs said. "And we gained a lot of confidence. We started out sluggish and were down by nine points at halftime. I told the group that if we'd just hang in there and execute, they were going to give us an opportunity to catch up. But every time we would get within four or five points, they would extend the lead back up to nine or 10. In the last five minutes, it all started clicking."

Freshman point guard and former Newton High standout Alex Ordu took charge in the waning minutes and finished with 14 points, including a critical free throw that gave Oxford its first lead -- with just seconds remaining.

"It was like the Alex Ordu Show," Stubbs said. "He really played well down the stretch, scoring some big baskets, and we only led for the last 18 seconds of the game. Alex hit a free throw with 18 seconds left to put us up by one, and we were able to hold on at the end."

Ordu was followed by freshmen Zachary Lynn (10 points) and Kevin Tolbert (nine points). Tolbert nailed a 3-pointer to tie the score and then took a late charge to force a turnover and preserve the narrow victory.

"They showed a lot of heart and determination in sticking in there, and we really executed well -- defensively and offensively, making stops on the defensive end and scoring on the offensive end -- down the stretch," Stubbs said.

With the exhibition season -- and its diverse series of situations -- now done, Oxford will open the 2011-12 season at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, hosting the Truett-McConnell junior varsity team, which has an extensive 13-game schedule, including a home game against the Eagles on Nov. 12. After the season opener at historic Williams Gymnasium, Oxford will play its first road game on Saturday, Nov. 5 against the Southern Wesleyan junior varsity in Central, S.C., near Clemson.

"I'm actually going to see Truett-McConnell play Southern Wesleyan's JV on Thursday, so I'm going to go up and scout, so we'll have some basic information about our first two opponents," Stubbs said.

Stubbs, now in his seventh year at the helm of the Eagles, said his projected starting lineup would include sophomore shooting guard -- and All-Conference selection -- Stephen Simmons and four freshmen. In addition to the 6-foot-4 Ordu, first-year starters include 6-3 forward Byron Stufken, 6-2 forward Tolbert and 6-5 center Roman Woodburn.

Freshmen Sam Kim, who had nine assists against Central Georgia, Lynn, and sophomore Evan Dunwoodie, who was also a preseason All-Conference selection will be the first players off the bench for Oxford, which figures to be able to capitalize this winter with its considerable depth.

"We're really deep," Stubbs said. "We're 11 deep easily. We want to get out and play up-tempo and get easy baskets, but in our two exhibition games we haven't really succeeded with doing that. We're working on that and with us having a deeper bench, we want to be able to get up and down and run the fast break a lot more."

While Stubbs is pleased with the team's progress and has pronounced them ready to tackle the regular season, he remains troubled about the team's dreadful free-throw shooting. After shooting 10 of 18 against Fundamentals 4 Success, the Eagles were 14 of 28 at the line against Central Georgia.

"We were 50 percent, so it wasn't really any better than the first game," Stubbs said. "The only good thing about it was the other team was 0-for-6. One of our things is we like to make more free throws than the other team attempts and we succeeded in that, but still, 50 percent is very bad, not good at all."

For more information on the Oxford men's basketball team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics.