Tornado Basketball Brings in Barton for Doubleheader

King Tornado


Barton Bulldogs

Women's: 5:30 p.m.
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Student Complex Center (Bristol, Tenn.)

Men's: 7:30 p.m.
Live stats  |  Live video 
Game notes
Game notes


Lady Tornado Tidbits...

King earned their second Conference Carolinas victory of the season in a 55-52 thrilling win at home on Jan. 16 against the Lees-McRae Bobcats. Down only three points heading into the half, King and LMC battled it out through the second half until the Lady Tornado broke away with a 16-5 run after the Bobcats committed their second technical foul of the game. An ill-tempered Icey Johnson slammed the ball to the court after fouling out, resulting in the tech and feeding into the run. AfterLees-McRae hit a three with less than a minute to go to bring it to a two-point contest, King turned the ball over on the inbound to give the Bobcats a chance. However, Brittany Kinser returned the favor and stole the ball right back as LMC attempted its inbound, helping seal the victory for King.

Barton has spread a lot of minutes around the floor early in the season but are settling into their  main rotation of seven players they wield in and out of games. Nyeshea Willie does a little bit of everything and a lot of scoring for the Bulldogs. She leads the team with 15.9 ppg and is third on the team in steals (28), only three off the pace for the top spot held by Elaine Morgan (31). Willie has taken the most shots from both short and long range, hitting 39.1 percent of her field goals and 33.3 percent of her three pointers while also hitting the line a team-high 92 times (.870) this season. Add 4.9 rpg, 32 assists and four blocks to her line and she serves as the main catalyst to the offense and defense's success. Hunter Faith is next on the high scorers list with 13.5 ppg, done primarily inside the three-point arc. She also leads the team with 12 blocks. Shante Neal leads the team in rebounds (6.6) with Jolanda Mitchell on her heals with 6.3 rpg.

The Lady Tornado begin a six-game, two-on-two-off stretch beginning with a pair of home games that start today. They play their first Conference Carolina home game today against Converse College followed by Community Day on Jan. 7 against East Conference favorite Mount Olive. Their game against the Trojans will mark the first basketball doubleheader at the Student Center Complex this season before they take to the road for a pair against Belmont Abbey (Jan. 10) and Coker (Jan. 14).

Guard Brooke Johnson is currently leading the Tornado in scoring, and with her 15-point performance in her last game as eclipsed the 10-point per game plateau (10.5). The junior leads the team in field goal (136), three-point (56) and free throw (61) attempts to serve as their primary option to score. She has now posted back-to-back 10+ point nights, averaging 13.0 ppg in those games, and five of the last six games combined. In her last game, she went 14-for-16 from the charity stripe and finished with 16 points. 

Junior guard Mikki Oliver has helped her team in a role that has been morphing over the last week but her minutes played and contributions in that time are unquestionable. Oliver has started the last two games after beginning the season as a reserve but averages 21.2 minutes per game to lead all non-starters in minutes played. She is averaging 7.8 ppg, second-best on the team, and leads the team in three-point shooting percentage (.500) on 14-of-28 from deep. She is also third on the team in assists (22) and second in steals (14).


Tornado Tidbits...

King has a wild week with a come-from-behind victory over Coker College (Jan. 14), 70-66, followed by a blowout of rival Lees-McRae, 72-51. In the road win over Coker, King trailed by 19 points at the half but were spurred by Brian Hewitt's 34-point night to retake the lead late in the game and hold off the Cobras for their fifth conference victory of the season.  The Tornado then returned to the Student Center on Jan. 16 where Eddie Piccinini led the team with 19 points in the 21-point victory. King jumped out to an early 26-5 lead but the Bobcats clawed back into the game with a 9-0 run at the end of the half to keep within nine points of King. The Tornado again blew the doors open to begin the second half but this time did not let up as they strolled to a 72-51 victory. In that game, Lio Gideon set a new career high in rebounds with 13 on the night. 

Barton College (11-4, 3-2) rests in second place in the East Divison of Conference Carolinas and have the second-best overall record behind King (14-3). Barton ranks fourth in ppg (80.2) and makes it living by picking your pocket and getting the freebies to fall. Barton leads the conference in overall steals/g (11.3) and both FT made and attempted per game (19.5/27.5). Most of their damage is done inside the three-point line since they are 10th in 3pt-attempts and 11th in 3pt-makes per game. Junior guard Gerald Boston leads the team in ppg (17.2) and FT% (85.9) and has high shooting marks from both short and long range. He leads the conference in overall 3pt% (46.7) though has only taken 45 attempts (nearly 1/3 that of Brian Hewitt). Jaren Haley is the only other double digit scorer on the Barton roster with 15.9 points per game and leads the team in both FG and 3pt-FG attempts (197/106). Barton's lineup is not filled with size and their largest player, Aaron Coats (6-9) is only averaging 4.1 mpg.

Currently, the Tornado are No. 1 in the country for the second week in a row in three-point field goals per game. They average a nation-best 11.4 treys per game, 0.3 more than the next team in Southwest Baptist (11.1). King is No. 2 in the country in total threes made (193), only behind SBU (210). They are also in the top-15 in both fewest turnovers per game (11, 11.5), turnover margin (12, 4.3), and assist/turnover ratio (13, 1.28). Last week, the Tornado received three votes in the NABC Rankings, the first time they had since joining NCAA Division II. On an individual level, Brian Hewitt is ranked sixth in the country in 3pt-fg/g (3.5), 16th in 3pt-fg% (.465) and 41st in steals per game (2.2).

The phrase doesn't just apply to football. It is also the mantra of Coach Pitts' basketball teams. This year, the Tornado are third in the league in allowed ppg (69.7) behind Queens (68.9) and Coker (66.6), who they scored 70 against. King is also forcing its opponents to take a surplus of three-pointers against them (343, most in the conference) but also have the second-lowest percentage of successful three-point shots against them (30.9) next to Coker (28.1). In opposing fg%, King ranks fourth in the league (42.7).

Orlando's own, Eddie Piccinini, has returned from last year's injury in a big way for King. He serves as team captain for the Tornado but also gets it done on the court, averaging 15.2 ppg as a full-time starter.Piccinini is third on the team in FG% (.429) and has the second-most floor time, playing 30.8 minutes per game. He has posted double-digit point totals in all but two games totaling 15 games. Piccinini had a nine-game streak of scoring in double digits before Coker broke that streak, holding the junior to four. He responded with 19 against Lees-McRae (Jan. 16) to begin a new streak.

Senior Brian Hewitt was named the Conference Carolinas Male Basketball Player of the Week for a third time this season after setting a new season high with 34 points in the Tornado's 19-point, come-from-behind 70-66 road win against Coker and another 23 points against Belmont Abbey in a 92-81 win. He also won the award on Nov. 22 and Dec 2, the second honor coming after he posted up 32 points in an upset win against Limestone College on Nov. 29.