Coming into Saturday’s game there was only one team left on paper that Longwood was supposed to beat…the Presbyterian Blue Hose. The 4-16 Blue Hose came into Farmville with only one Division I win and conference win, which was against Liberty. Presbyterian was also rated as the nation’s second worst team according to KenPom.com With the fans expecting a win, and hopefully a convincing one after Tuesday’s embarrassment, the Lancers were once again flat and out-coached for an 81-72 loss. It was the first road win in over 11 months for the Blue Hose.
For historical context, Presbyterian is very much toiling and mediocrity like Longwood. The school started a Division I schedule in 2007-08 and has gone 54-117 since then. The Blue Hose best year came last year when they went 14-15 overall and 8-10 in the conference. Presbyterian’s head coach is Gregg Nibbert, who the school gave a vote of confidence on in the DI transition and is in his 24th year at the helm. Nibbert has lead the Blue Hose to the NAIA tournament and then four appearances in the NCAA DII tournament. Beyond the success on the lower levels, Nibbert also took down Cincinnati on the road a year ago. With both team sporting similar records and setbacks the year, Nibbert and his team came into the game with a level of passion and intensity that was not close to being matched by Longwood.
Longwood should have had the Blue Hose well scouted as both teams played in the same Las Vegas tournament in November. The coaching staff were given an opportunity to watch PC lose to Cornell 89-55 and lose to Florida A&M 69-55. Longwood beat Florida A&M 86-63 in the same tournament and only lost to Cornell by 6 points.
The Lancers went into halftime yesterday down 39-36. Longwood struggled in the first five minutes of the second half and the Blue Hose lead grew to ten points. Longwood then went on a 9-0 run to bring the game within one with seven minutes left. Down the stretch Longwood faltered giving up a 15-4 and an 11 point lead with just over 1:30 left in the game. The frustration was apparent from many individuals on and off the court and the fans on both sides of Willett Hall seemed absolutely deflated. One of those individuals was assistant coach Doug Thibault. Usually a mild mannered coach who isn’t very vocal on the bench, Thibault emotionally yelled at the players and referees on two occasion. It is visibly apparent that frustration is boiling over in Farmville.
All five starters scored in double-figures for Longwood except Lucas Woodhouse, who had 9 assists. On the post game radio show there was an attempt to highlight Woodhouse’s passing as a positive to take away from the game, Mike Gillian responded by throwing Woodhouse under the bus and citing the game being too fast and his turnovers down the stretch as a reason for defeat. Woodhouse did turn the ball over 5 times, but only one turnover in the last five minutes turned into point for PC and that was after a timeout was called by Nibbert and LU had a chance to regroup. The other kicker was playing Woodhouse all forty minutes on Saturday, which is tough for any player, much less a point guard. Mark Parker had been averaging over 11 minutes per game in the last four games, but he was not given an opportunity to play. Instead, Gillian went with a 7-man rotation with Jeff Havenstein playing only nine minutes.
Longwood now ranks as the nation’s fourth worst team according to KenPom. Longwood is in the midst of an eleven game losing streak, which is the second worst in school history. The worst game in 2004-05 in Gillian’s second year at the helm. Three of the next four games for Longwood will come on the road, including their next game against 9-10 (4-3) High Point on Wednesday.