By Scott Michaux
Columnist, Augusta Chronicle
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - First NCAA tournament appearance since 1978, and Augusta State was going in blindly.
You never would have known it.
"Somebody's got to play real good to beat us right now,'' said Augusta State coach Gary Tuell, who decries his club's disrespectful seeding of sixth. "We think we're pretty good.''
They were better than good Thursday night in Brayboy Gymnasium at Johnson C. Smith University. They were close to great. Just ask Catawba, the 96-84 victim in the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional.
"This is a great basketball team,'' Tuell said. "It's a shame too many people missed out on it this year.''
The 150 or so diehard fans who followed Augusta State to Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday understood. This was a team determined to make history with the first NCAA Tournament win in the school's second appearance.
"It's contagious,'' said junior forward Russell Hinder. "You saw how many fans came here. Obviously it means something to them.''
Two days before tipoff, Tuell was a little worried because he didn't have any film of 15th-ranked Catawba. A coach without film to breakdown is like Linus without his blanket.
"We're kind of stuck without it,'' Tuell said Tuesday. "One of the things we do really well is prepare by using film. So I think we're going in a little bit short-handed.''
Relying on scouting reports from friends, Tuell fashioned an offense that ran almost on auto pilot. The 96 points was the second-highest total of the season for the Jaguars.
"I don't think it mattered what we had or didn't have,'' Tuell said of the film situation. "It mattered that we executed our stuff.''
Augusta State won't need any video of tonight's second-round opponent - Winston-Salem State. All the Jaguars need is their memory of last year's encounters with the Rams.
"They press us into submission,'' Tuell said. "Gary Boodnikoff's eyes were as big as paper plates. They were the best team we've ever played.''
They're also the same team this year.
"I just hope we've gotten better,'' Tuell said.
If Thursday is any indication, the Jaguars have. They've developed a perfect sense of who they are and what they can do.
"Some teams never get that feel but these guys are beginning to catch on,'' Tuell said.
Catawba left the backdoor open early and the Jaguars stole through the gate. Exploiting the inside of Catawba's defense, Augusta State converted an astonishing 13 of its first 17 shots (76.5 percent) to build an 18-point lead halfway through the first half.
When Catawba closed the gap to nine at intermission and six early in the second half, Augusta State never flinched. Any doubts?
"Naw,'' said Boodnikoff, the junior shooter from Australia who drained consecutive 3-pointers with less than six minutes remaining to break Catawba's will. ``We play like this. If it's not close, it's not Augusta State. Nothing fazes us.''
That's the attitude Boodnikoff, Festus Hawkins, T.J. Ott, Hinder, Jayme Johnson and mates need to take to the next level against Winston-Salem State.
"We played them twice last year, and we didn't get close,'' Tuell said. "We're going to have our hands full, obviously. But they will, too.''
March 27, 2001 Hawkins and Boodnikoff Named to the NABC All-Region Team
March 11, 2001 Jaguars look to next season
March 10, 2001 Magical Season Comes to an End for Jaguars
March 10, 2001 Augusta State knocked out of tournament
March 10, 2001 Rams' stifling 'D' steamrolls Jaguars
March 9, 2001 Jaguars are a 'can do' team
March 9, 2001 Jaguars top Catawba College 96-84
March 8, 2001 Jaguars ready to take on Catawba
March 7, 2001 Augusta State coach ready for challenge
March 5, 2001 Augusta State Men’s Basketball Itinerary
March 5, 2001 Augusta State earns 6th seed
March 3, 2001 Jaguars reign in Peach Belt
March 3, 2001 Augusta State Wins Peach Belt Tournament Title
March 2, 2001 ASU Defeats USC Aiken in PBC Semifinals
March 1, 2001 Jaguars top Clayton State
February 24, 2001 ASU Wraps North Division Top-Seed With 83-65 Win Over Francis Marion
February 21, 2001 No. 22 Pirates Win 16th Straight, Defeat ASU 58-45
February 17, 2001 ASU Falls to Georgia College & State
February 15, 2001 ASU 89, Francis Marion 73
February 14, 2001 ASU Rolls Over Francis Marion 89-73
February 11, 2001 Jaguars celebrate homecoming with win
February 10, 2001 ASU Rolls Over North Florida 93-50
February 10, 2001 Jaguars face North Florida at home
February 7, 2001 ASU Moves Back Into First Place With 70-63 Win Over UNC Pembroke
February 3, 2001 Senators down Augusta State 68-60
February 1, 2001 Jaguars defeat Pacers 72-63
January 31, 2001 ASU Moves Back Into First Place With 72-63 Win Over USC Aiken
January 29, 2001 Records Fall as ASU Defeats Life University 108-87
January 24, 2001 Jaguars suffer tough setback vs. Kennesaw
January 20, 2001 TJ Ott Leads ASU to 61-47 Win over USC Spartanburg
January 18, 2001 Pacers edge Jaguars 53-51
January 17, 2001 Second Half Rally Falls Short as ASU Falls to USCA
January 17, 2001 Jaguars, Pacers renew PBC rivalry
January 16, 2001 Paine tops ASU in City Classic
January 15, 2001 Paine Defeats ASU 68-58 Behind Yari Scott’s 27 Points
January 15, 2001 Gary Boodnikoff Named Peach Belt Player of the Week
January 14, 2001 Jaguars remain at top of league
January 13, 2001 Gary Boodnikoff Scores 26 in 80-53 Win Over Lander
January 10, 2001 Braves and Jaguars Split Peach Belt Doubleheader
January 8, 2001 Festus Hawkins Lifts ASU to 64-63 Overtime Win
January 7, 2001 Jaguars give Harris win number 1
January 6, 2001 Augusta State Defeats Columbus State 74-57
January 4, 2001 ASU Men and Women Sweep Clayton State
January 3, 2001 Augusta State Defeats Clayton State 65-54
December 21, 2000 Augusta State’s Gary Tuell to Host Holiday Basketball Clinic ... Again
December 18, 2000 Augusta State Falls To Life, 72-55
December 13, 2000 Augusta State’s Gary Tuell to Host Holiday Basketball Clinic
December 13, 2000 Festus Hawkins and Sharon Taylor Ranked Nationally
December 10, 2000 Fast start lifts Jags past Savannah State
December 9, 2000 Festus Hawkins Powers ASU Over Savannah State 87-67
December 2, 2000 Augusta State Defeats Lenoir-Rhyne 71-55
December 1, 2000 ASU Falls to 10th-Ranked Wingate 103-88
November 30, 2000 ASU Defeats Rollins 70-68
November 27, 2000 ASU Defeats West Georgia 66-61 in Home Opener
November 22, 2000 Augusta State Notches First Win at Savannah State 68-45
November 17, 2000 West Georgia Defeats Augusta State 76-74 in Overtime Thriller
November 11, 2000 Augusta State Defeats ASU Alumni/CSRA Select Team 91-55
October 14, 2000 Augusta State to host Midnight Madness Saturday, October 14
October 11, 2000 ASU Seeking Third Straight Peach Belt North Division Title
October 10, 2000 Augusta State Men’s Basketball Opens 2000-01 Season at West Georgia