Eagles enter critical phase of conference play

The Oxford Men's basketball team enters a critical phase of the season, with the second of a pair of games against Georgia College Athletic Association foes looming. Fortunately, the Eagles will wade into battle with the momentum gained from a five-game winning streak.

"We played really well in all three games last week," said Oxford coach Roderick Stubbs, whose team started its latest winning streak on Jan. 15 with a record-setting 113-point performance against the Huntington junior varsity. "We're turning it over a little too much, but we've been working hard in practice on ball control and making better decisions with the ball, because those are the kinds of things that can come back to haunt you."

The Eagles (13-6 overall, 2-1 in GCAA play) beat Southern Crescent Tech on Thursday and will travel to Carrollton for a 6 p.m. game on Saturday at West Georgia Tech (8-12, 3-1).

One of the victories Oxford posted last week came against West Georgia Tech, which saw its unbeaten streak in the league come to a halt in a 71-63 decision. The Eagles also have a previous victory over Southern Crescent Tech, defeating the Tigers 80-60 on Dec. 2.

"West Georgia Tech is guard-oriented and they freelance a lot," Stubbs said of the Golden Knights. "They really don't shoot the ball well, but they do a good job of going to the basket, rebounding their missed shots and laying it in. So we've got to box out and play solid basketball to limit their opportunities."

The Eagles also defeated the Bryan College junior varsity (82-53) and the Greenville Titans (85-71) last week. Oxford has been without its leading scorer, sophomore Stephen Simmons, since he injured his leg on the team's trip to Florida at the beginning of the year, but Oxford has seemingly not missed a step, with other players accepting the challenge of increased production.

Stubbs said that former Newton star Alex Ordu played a key role in last week's success by averaging 20 points per game. Freshman Sam Kim has continued to make his presence felt on the glass as he recorded a double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds against Greenville, and Zachary Lynn -- who was expected to pick up some of the scoring slack in Simmons' absence -- has been a solid competitor.

"When we played West Georgia Tech, Zachary struggled with his shooting, but he still played solid defense," Stubbs said. "And against Greenville, he came right out and hit four 3-pointers in the first half. Everyone has stepped up in one area or another to fill the void of Stephen's absence."

Simmons is working diligently in rehab, Stubbs said, and could be ready to return as early as Feb. 24.

With roughly a month left in the regular season, Stubbs likes what he sees in the Eagles.

"We're about where I thought we'd be at the beginning of the year," he said. "We started the year a very deep team but between injuries and the departure of some players who wanted to focus on their academics, we're not as deep as we were. But we are stepping up and playing well."