HARTSVILLE, SC – Coker College and Francis Marion University staged a exhilarating show Monday night in its 2004-05 season opener for both teams. FMU pulled out a 71-65 overtime victory behind the clutch play of preseason All-American Louis McCullough.
McCullough poured in 30 points, including a back-breaking three-pointer in OT, to lead the Patriots to a 1-0 start on the year. The senior from Goose Creek, SC partnered with Michael Jenkins to score 50 of Francis Marion’s 71 points, and all 11 points the visitors tallied in overtime.
The matchup between region rivals went back and forth the whole way. FMU opened the largest lead of the first half with 4:08 remaining on a jumper by Jenkins to grab a 23-15 lead. A three-pointer from sophomore Vance Caraway/Charlotte, NC brought the Cobras capped a five-point burst to make it 23-20 but the Patriots pushed their way back to a 28-22 halftime lead.
Coker stayed within striking distance in the opening minutes of the second period but FMU grabbed another eight-point advantage at 44-36 on a McCullough layup. A three-pointer from junior Johnny Jackson/Hartsville, SC made it 44-39 and five points from classmate Jason Fulwood/Cumming, GA ignited the capacity crowd and brought CC back within one at 45-44.
Over the final nine minutes neither team led by more than three points, setting up an exciting finish with a near-buzzer beater. An old-fashioned three-point play by senior Jay Farrow/Sanford, NC put Coker in front 60-58 and put the pressure on the Patriots. Caraway fouled Jenkins with 29 seconds remaining and the junior calmly sank two free-throws to quiet the buzzing gym.
Farrow collected the ball with nine seconds remaining and attempted a three pointer which was partially blocked by McCullough. Senior Andre Blackwell/Bethune, SC corralled the ball and appeared to lay it in for a victory as the clock expired. However, he released the shot a hair too late and, much to the chagrin of head coach Dan Schmotzer, the teams went on to overtime tied 60-60.
Jenkins set the tone for the final period by drilling a three-pointer after winning the tip-off. Farrow made it 63-62 with a runner off the glass and the score stayed there until McCullough struck with just over a minute to play. His clutch shot from behind the arc was on the mark and FMU grabbed a 66-62 advantage. The Cobras were unable to get a good shot on the next few possessions and were forced to foul Jenkins, who 5-6 from the line in the last minute. Fulwood with eight seconds left came too late and ended the scoring at 71-65.
In addition to his 30 points, McCullough added nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Jenkins finished with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists and Sean Kennedy added eight points, five boards and three assists.
Farrow and Fulwood led a balanced Coker attack with 18 points each. Farrow had a double-double with 10 rebounds and also added two assists. Senior Michael Pierce/Whiteville, NC tallied nine points and eight boards and classmate Jamie Jenkins/Columbia, SC finished with eight points and six rebounds.
The Cobras held a slim 48-47 advantage on the boards and took care of the ball with only 10 turnovers to FMU’s 12. The Patriots blocked eight shots to CC’s one, however, and held a large advantage at the foul line, where they made 24-31 attempts to Coker’s 6-9 shooting. Neither team shot the ball well, with Francis Marion connecting on 36 percent from the field and the Cobras hitting at a 33 percent clip.
Coker takes the court again at UNC Pembroke on Tuesday, November 23 at 7:00 PM.