By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE NCAA basketball season tipped off Tuesday night and several Bahamians figured prominently for their programmes on the court and from the coaching ranks on the sidelines.
Yolett McPhee-McCuin began her era as the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels' women's programme with a win in her Southeastern Conference debut.
The Rebels won 60-42 over the Norfolk State Spartans at The Pavillion in Oxford, Mississippi.
Ole Miss faced an 8-0 deficit to start the game but responded with a 10-0 run of their own to take their first lead.
"We're gonna be tough," McPhee-McCuin said. "I never said we were gonna win games. I said we're gonna be tough, we're gonna be competitive, we're gonna act like we enjoy playing the game, and when you watch us, you will be able to see that. To be honest, I didn't know how this game was gonna go. Norfolk won 18 games and they have a bunch of seniors. We really needed to dig down and dig deep and figure out a way to start this season off with a win."
The Rebels held Norfolk State to several scoreless droughts of five minutes or longer - including a streak of 5:29 to close the game - forcing 24 Spartan turnovers, tallying 11 steals and holding NSU to a shooting percentage of 26.5 from the floor. On top of that, the Rebels turned those 24 turnovers into 24 points as well.
"You're just going to get transparency from me, that has always worked," McPhee-McCuin said. "If we're bad, I'm gonna say we were bad, and if I thought we did well, I'll say we did well. I think that's what my players appreciate, and that's what fans appreciate - honesty. No use blowing smoke. It wasn't the prettiest game, but I'm just glad we got a win. I'll take an ugly win versus a pretty loss."
Travis Munnings began his senior season with the ULM Warhawks on a winning note in the Sun Belt Conference. Munnings is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder but played the role of facilitator on opening night.
Munnings finished with six points, a game high 11 rebounds and a career high eight assists in the Warhawks' 75-66 win over the Jackson State Tigers.
ULM won its season-opening game for the fourth time in the last five years.
Travis took only five shots and scored six points, but I thought he played great," Warhawks head coach Keith Richard said. "Jackson State doubled him every time he got the ball in the post, so it was hard for him to get open shots. Travis really played under control throughout this game. His eight assists tell you that he's become a really good all-around player."
As a junior, he averaged 15.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He was previously honoured as Second-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection and won Sun Belt Player of the Week.
In the America East Conference, Jaron Cornish is also into his senior season with the Stony Brook Sea Wolves.
He finished with five points, three rebounds and three assists in Stony Brook's come-from-behind 77-74 overtime win over the George Washington Colonials.
They trailed the Colonials 22-0 to start the game but the Seawolves chipped away to eventually tie the game at the end of regulation and then outscored the Colonels 14-11 in overtime.
Charles Bain was the only Bahamian with a loss on opening night when his Robert Morris Colonials suffered an 83-62 loss to the South Carolina Trojans. He finished with five points and two rebounds in 16 foul-plagued minutes.
Robert Morris scored at the 12:17 mark to cap an 8-0 spurt and take a 53-49 lead. The Trojans responded with an 18-2 run to take control for good.
"There was an opportunity for us that we didn't reach out and grab," head coach Andrew Tooles said. "When we really needed to come up with a stop or execute after we got that four-point lead, we just weren't able to get done what we wanted to get done. I thought we had some good looks that we did not make that I'm hopeful we're going to make going forward. There are a lot of positives to build off, for sure, and the score isn't indicative of the how the game went."