East Regional preview: Millersville young, overachieving
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 11, 2005 2:08 PM
MILLERSVILLE, Pa. -- A young, overachieving team.
Seventh-year Millersville (Pa.) University coach Fred Thompson uses those two adjectives to describe this year's men's basketball team, but don't get too confident when you play them.
The Battlers can hold their own with anyone. Picked to finish fifth in the preseason, Millersville (22-7) ended up tied for second in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"The kids have great character and they play hard," Thompson said. "They listen and that's important to us. This has been a surprise to me. I thought this would be a team to win maybe 15 or 16 games, but they've won 22 and we've ended up in the playoffs.
"We've done a good job of overachieving."
Thompson contends his team doesn't have considerable experience, but the Battlers depend on the leadership of one player -- Toochi Udeinya. The 6-foot-6 senior from Rockville (Md.) nearly averages a double-double -- 11.8 points and 8.7 rebounds an outing.
Freshman guard Charles Parker has emerged the Battlers' top scorer with 14.7 points. He's followed closely by sophomore guard Greg Testa (13.7), senior forward Brian Jones (12.3) and senior guard Anthony Abrams (12.1).
Udienya, Jones and Abrams played on the 2003 Millersville squad that lost to Queens (N.C.) University in the East Regional championship.
"With five kids who average double figures, you can see we don't have one individual who has been key to the team," Thompson said.
Offensively, the Battlers like to work their offense and keep a defense hustling every second. Thompson doesn't necessarily favor shortening the game by exhausting the full 35 seconds on the shot clock and encourages his players to take the open shot early -- if it's there.
Millersville likes to utilize a variety of defenses to keep the opponent off-balance. But Thompson adds that the Battlers are not fast and might encounter matchup problems with Mount Olive, which plays a stifling, pressure defense of its own.
"I see why they're averaging 86 points a game," Thompson said while viewing MOC game film. "We must protect the basketball because they create a lot of turnovers and like to get out in transition.
"We don't have a great deal of height, but our main problem is going to be their quickness."
The Battlers are making their second appearance in three seasons and ninth overall in the NCAA Tournament. Millersville has one regional title (1989) to its credit and is 2-1 all-time against Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference opponents.
The Trojans are 0-1 and their lone non-conference loss occurred against another WVIAC school -- West Virginia State on Nov. 26.
"We know styles and structures within the CVAC, so we know how to make an attempt to counter-attack our abilities against their abilities. We are looking at their (Millersville) personnel now and we will try to adjust ... take our strong points and work against their weak points," veteran MOC coach Bill Clingan said. "They've got a strong starting five. They've got two good athletes inside and one strong shooter outside. They are 22-7 which speaks a lot about the season they have had.
"They are a very strong seven-seed team. We will go in respecting them and knowing they are good basketball team."
Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Pfeiffer University in Meisenheimer.
(Sports writer Gabe Whisnant contributed to this story.)
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