|Road games a challenge for J.C. Smith|
|Published Thursday, January 24, 2013 7:10 am|
Johnson C. Smith has an opportunity to stake its claim as a CIAA heavyweight this week.
|Johnson C. Smith center Emilio Parks goes strong for a dunk over Fayetteville State’s Andre Best in the Golden Bulls’ 75-64 win on Jan. 19. JCSU (12-5) is looking to hold on to first place in the CIAA South with road games this week against St. Augustine’s and Livingstone.|
The Golden Bulls (12-5, 1-0 CIAA Division), who played at St. Augustine’s on Jan. 23, go to Livingstone on Jan. 26 with the top spot at stake. Both games pose challenges: St. Augustine’s (11-6, 1-0) beat Division II No. 11 Winston-Salem State last week in the division opener while Livingstone (13-3, 1-0) toppled Shaw, the preseason co-favorite with WSSU.
“I think we’re as good as any team in the league, especially when we show up night in and night out and show up both halves,” Golden Bulls coach Steve Joyner said. “We’re fighting for consistency and there’s a lot of opportunity out there for us. We just have to take advantage of it.”
The Golden Bulls entered the week with a five-game winning streak, their best stretch since a 10-game roll during the 2010-11 campaign. After a couple of so-so seasons, JCSU is playing with confidence as division play gets into gear.
“Coach Joyner always tells us we have a goal,” Golden Bulls wing Emerson Williams said. “Our first goal is to win the South Division and our next goal is to win the CIAA championship, so in order to do that, we have to play at Brayboy but also go on the road and win games as well.”
The road is where JCSU found its groove. Between losses to CIAA North rivals Lincoln (Pa.) and Bowie State earlier this month, the Golden Bulls met to establish expectations and accountability for the rest of the season. The session had the desired result.
“When we went to Bowie, we had a real important meeting as a team and after that meeting we all became one,” Williams said. “Even though we lost by four points, we played together and since that meeting we’ve been playing good. The beginning of the season was kind of rough, but we’ve got to continue to play hard.”
JCSU will look to build on that momentum against Livingstone, which entered the week tied for the most wins in the league with WSSU. The Golden Bulls and Blue Bears are best known for the oldest rivalry in black college football but the basketball intensity has grown in recent years and Livingstone’s Trent Gym will be packed. Playing for first place would add another layer.
“That Livingstone game is always a bunch of fun,” Williams said. “The crowd comes out, here or at Livingstone. We’ll just see how it comes out.”
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