As the regular season comes to an end, the Oxford College men's basketball team is once again in streak mode.
After an 18-point loss to Gordon College on Feb. 4, the Eagles recorded back-to-back Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association victories over Middle Georgia Tech (75-58 on Feb. 7) and Georgia Northwestern Tech (76-64 on Feb. 11).
"The Gordon game gave us a lot of confidence," said Oxford coach Roderick Stubbs, whose team plays at 7 p.m. today against the Tennessee-Temple junior varsity in Chattanooga. "We played them neck and neck until the last four or five minutes and we used the confidence we gained in that game the next week."
The Eagles earned a big league victory and gained a measure of revenge against Middle Georgia Tech as former Newton standout Alex Ordu scored 23 points and fellow freshman Sam Kim recorded a double-double of 13 points and 17 rebounds.
"They beat us by 20 when we last played them and that was mainly because they had a big rebounding edge," Stubbs said. "But we were able to keep the points and the rebounds close and led by two at halftime. Then we started the second half with a 16-0 run by playing good team defense and holding them to one shot per possession."
Against Georgia Northwestern Tech, the Eagles started slow and their opponents were exactly the opposite, hitting six 3-pointers in the first half to take a 9-point lead at intermission. But Oxford's defense again saved the day, holding Georgia Northwestern Tech to only five second-half field goals.
"We just shut down their scorers," Stubbs said. "We were able to tie it in the first three minutes of the second half and cruised from there."
Kevin Tolbert led Oxford with 21 points and Kim posted yet another double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Oxford is now 17-8 overall with a 5-2 mark in conference play. The Eagles are tied for second place in conference standings with West Georgia Tech, which defeated Oxford on Jan. 28. Middle Georgia Tech stands alone in first place.
"We're tied for second, and if West Georgia Tech beats Middle Georgia Tech (set for Saturday, Feb. 18), there will be a three-way tie for first place," Stubbs said. "But if Middle Georgia wins, they'll be the regular-season champs and the No. 1 seed in the tournament. We won't know until those two teams play."
Historic Williams Gymnasium will provide the backdrop this weekend for the inaugural Dennis Spruell Basketball Classic. The round-robin tournament, which coincides with Sophomore Day and Alumni Day on Saturday, honors Spruell, who established the team's booster club and was known for years as "the voice of the Eagles."
Oxford will open play at 6 p.m. Friday against Georgia Northwestern Tech. At 8 p.m. Friday, Southern Crescent Tech will face Pasco-Hernando (Fla.) Community College, and at 5 p.m. on Saturday, the Eagles will close out the event against Pasco-Hernando. Stubbs said the team hasn't had many chances to play two games in two days, but he wanted to schedule such a series to prepare the Eagles for tournament play.
"We're trying to get geared up for the playoffs," he said. "In the conference tournament, it's one-and-done, so we want to concentrate and focus on doing the right thing every game."
The GACA conference tournaments for men and women will be held this year at Oxford. The women's tournament will consist of a championship final set for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, and the men's tournament will be held March 2-4.
"We hope we'll be able to take advantage of playing at home in front of a friendly crowd," Stubbs said.
Playing at home and having sophomore guard Stephen Simmons back should certainly help Oxford's cause in the conference tournament. Simmons, a pre-season all-conference selection who averaged nearly 13 points a game, has been out with an injured knee since early January but could be back in short order.
"We hope he'll be back this week," said Stubbs of Simmons. "He's been rehabbing hard and we believe he'll be cleared to play on Friday. He's been practicing with us and even if he's not ready this weekend we'll have him for the tournament."
For more information on the Oxford College men's basketball team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics.