Michael France wanted to be more aggressive.
The Trevecca Nazarene junior did just that and more on Saturday as he scored a career-high 43 points in the Trojans’ 93-90 loss to ranked Martin Methodist.
France, a Shelbyville native, was 16-of-20 from the field and 7-of-9 from 3-point range. His seven 3-pointers were one shy of the school record. His 43 points were the second most in program history and the most this season by an NAIA Division I player.
On Monday, he was rewarded for his incredible performance as he was named the TranSouth Athletic Conference’s player of the week.
“Really, I felt like my team really needed me at the time. [Coach Sam Harris] told me he needed me to be aggressive the full 40 minutes so I guess that is exactly what I did that night,” France said. “I didn’t realize I had 43 points until after the game because I was so focused on winning the game and things didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.”
Just two days before, on Thursday, he scored 18 in a 68-65 loss to Union, which also was ranked. In the two games last week, France averaged 30.5 points, three rebounds, four assists and 2.5 steals.
“He scored 11 points in the last three and a half minutes of the game,” Harris said. “My point with him was, ‘You don’t have to wait for us to fall behind to try to score. We need you to be more aggressive.’ We need you to be assertive throughout the game and maybe we won’t need you to score 11 points in three minutes to make a one-shot game.’
“He is a special player. He has to fill some of that burden of being aggressive all the time. He can’t pick and choose when he wants to do it.”
But he said the personal marks don’t mean anything if the Trojans aren’t winning, and they haven’t been lately. Trevecca (9-11, 3-5 TranSouth) heads into Thursday’s 8 p.m. home game against Mid-Continent, having lost two straight and five of its last six. Three of those losses were by three points or less.
“Right now we just can’t finish a game,” France said. “We are playing hard. Things are just not going our way and we can’t finish a ballgame. We have nine more games left and I see this turning all the way around.”
France, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard, leads the team with 17.9 points a game and 53 steals, which is the fourth most in NAIA Division I.
“I don’t take it as pressure,” France said of being the Trojans’ go-to player. “I just take it as part of my team role… Anything that helps us win the ballgame. If I need to drop 50 [points], then I’ll have to.”
• World University golfer: Middle Tennessee State senior golfer Jason Millard has been selected to compete in the World University Games in China this August. Millard, a graduate of Murfreesboro’s Riverdale High School, was one of six collegiate golfers chosen to represent the United States.
“I am really shocked,” Millard said. “I’ve had a good career but I didn’t expect this. This would be anyone’s dream to play for their country. This is a great way to end my college career.”
Millard leads the team with a Sun Belt-best 70.9 stroke average after the fall schedule, which is 1.6 strokes lower than any of his first three seasons. He recently tied for third in a field of 350 golfers at the Dixie Amateur Tournament in December in Miami.
Arkansas Little-Rock coach Wyn Norwood will coach the USA team and hand-picked Millard, based on his familiarity from the Sun Belt Conference competition.
"I picked six guys who are in or right around the top 100 collegiate players in the country. When you get to that level, they are all very equal. Any one of them can win any tournament on any given day. Jason fits that mold," Norwood said. "I also wanted six guys who had never had the experience of representing their country in international competition. It is something very few people get to do, and I wanted it to be new to them."
The World University Games will take place all over China from Aug. 12-23. The golf competition will be held at Mission Hills Golf Resort — the No. 1 rated golf resort in the world — in Shenzhen, China, from Aug. 17- 20. The format will be stroke play, 18 holes a day for four days.
• BracketBuster matchup: The Tennessee State men’s basketball team learned on Monday that it will host Delaware State on Feb. 19 in ESPN’s annual BracketBusters event.
The three-day event pits potential NCAA Tournament hopefuls against each other during Feb. 18-20 and the Tigers will participate for the sixth straight year. The game can be seen OVCSports.tv.
The Tigers have a 2-3 record in such games, including a loss to Central Michigan last year. Delaware State (8-12) is out of the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference and is a HBCU (historically black college and university) like TSU.
The two programs have met just once before, with the Tigers winning 75-69 during the 2004-05 season. This year, TSU is off to a 10-11 start and is tied for third in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 7-4 mark. The Tigers host defending league champ Murray State at 8 p.m. on Thursday in a game that will be aired on ESPNU.
• Coaches reach milestones: Two college basketball coaches picked up milestone wins recently.
First, on Jan. 15, Trevecca Nazarene women’s basketball coach Gary Van Atta recorded his 300th NAIA victory when the Lady Trojans defeated Cumberland 61-54. Van Atta, a native of Mt. Juliet, is now 302-102 as a coach in the NAIA. He has a 136-54 record in six years at Trevecca and a 166-49 mark at the University of Montevallo, where he coached for seven seasons.
Trevecca is actually two wins away from earning its 300th victory in program history. The all-time record for a program that was restarted nearly 15 years ago is 298-193. The Lady Trojans (8-11, 5-3 TranSouth) host Mid-Continent at 6 p.m. Thursday.
At Belmont, Rick Byrd picked up his 600th coaching victory when the Bruins beat Stetson 82-64 on Sunday. Byrd now has 508 wins at Belmont to go along with his 69 when he was Lincoln Memorial and 23 at Maryville College. Byrd, who is in his 25th year at Belmont, is now one of 12 active NCAA Division I men’s basketball head coaches to have at least 600 victories.
With the win on Sunday, Belmont reached 20 wins — the sixth time in eight years the Bruins have done so. Belmont (20-4, 11-1 Atlantic Sun), which received three votes in this week’s Associated Press poll, plays at Jacksonville on Thursday.
• Signing day celebrations: Tennessee State and Vanderbilt will hold national signing day celebrations that are open to the public on Wednesday.
Tennessee State football coach Rod Reed will host a “Meet and Greet” reception at 4:30 p.m. in the faculty dining room of the Floyd-Payne Center at TSU. Reed will show videos of each signee and afterwards will answer questions and discuss the 2011 signing class.
At Vanderbilt, first-year head coach James Franklin will host a signing day celebration in the Board of Trust Room at the Student Life Center. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., with a reception and meet and greet with Franklin and his coaching staff. Franklin will follow with remarks on this year’s signing class.
Middle Tennessee State will hold its fourth annual Recruiting Roundup next Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 5 p.m. at the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame building on campus. Coach Rick Stockstill and his coaching staff will talk more in-depth about the players that signed with MTSU after a video presentation is shown of the future Blue Raiders.
Doors open at 4:45 p.m. and the program will conclude around 7 p.m. The cost is $20 and includes beverages and snacks.