|EMCC Lions drop tough 71-63 decision to No. 1 South Plains in NJCAA basketball tourney|
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The 15th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College couldn’t take advantage of a solid first-half defensive effort in dropping a 71-63 decision to top-ranked and unbeaten South Plains College (Texas) Tuesday in Game 1 of the 2012 NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship being played at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Kansas.
Coach Mark White’s 23-5 EMCC Lions get bumped to the consolation bracket of the double-elimination tournament and will take on seventh-ranked Indian Hills Community College, out of Ottumwa, Iowa, in Game 9 Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. Indian Hills, 30-4 on the year and representing District 11, fell to third-ranked Monroe College (N.Y.), 81-69, in Tuesday’s opening-round action.
Dictating the pace of the game for the most part in the opening half against undefeated South Plains, EMCC overcame an early 16-11 deficit by making a 13-2 run to pull ahead, 24-18, on a Millaun Brown inside basket with 8:22 left until the break. When the Texans got to within a single point (27-26) by the 5:57 mark, the Lions outscored SPC, 9-3, the rest of the half to take their largest lead (36-29) to the locker room.
Despite owning the advantage at the intermission after his EMCC squad had held high-scoring South Plains to just 29-percent (12-of-41 FGs) first-half shooting, White still felt somewhat uneasy at the break about his team’s ability to consistently maintain their offense for the entire 40 minutes.
“Coming back from the half, I told my assistant (Billy Begley) that I was worried whether we could get enough going consistently on offense to hold them off and win the game.”
This year’s NJCAA District 15 and Region 23 Coach of the Year proved to be the prophet, as the Lions were outscored, 18-4, at the outset of the second stanza to fall behind by seven points (47-40) six minutes into the half. However, the Region 23 champions and three-time NJCAA Tournament participants regrouped to make a 9-2 run to knot the score at 49-49 on a long 3-pointer by D.J. Evans midway through the half.
Following another tie at 51-all, EMCC’s Tradarrius McPhearson nailed a triple to put the Lions on top, 54-52, with 8:41 remaining in the contest. After SPC added a pair of free throws to create another deadlock, reserve forward Lakin Ford nailed a key 3-pointer for EMCC to seemingly give the Lions some new-found momentum with 7:28 left in the game.
Instead, the Lions would find themselves stuck on 57 points for the next five minutes when their attack mode on offense ran dry at the charity stripe. Within a single minute, Colin Borchert and Deon Bedford – both 78-percent free-throw shooters on the season – missed a combined six straight charity tosses. At the same time, South Plains’ Stanton Kidd basically took over the contest offensively by tallying nine of his game-high 20 points during the game-changing, three-minute stretch. Kidd’s final bucket during the critical run – a 3-pointer with 1:49 left – all but sealed the contest for the 33-0 Texans.
“The missed free throws definitely affected us mentally on the other (defensive) end because it takes your spirit away from you,” White added.
The Lions missed 11-of-13 free throws during the second half, including 10 straight errant freebies at one point. For the game, EMCC labored with just 5-of-20 (25%) shooting from the so-called charity stripe.
Offensively, Evans and Borchert led EMCC with 13 points apiece, while Ford added 11 points off the bench.
On the defensive end, the Lions held South Plains to its worst shooting performance of the season on just 25-of-69 (36.2%) accuracy from the field, including limiting season-leading scorer Marshall Henderson to only 10 points on just 4-of-19 shooting and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. With the Texans entering the contest averaging 87.4 points per game and shooting better than 50 percent from the field as a team on the season, they were held to less than 72 points in a game for only the sixth time this season. The game also marked just the seventh time on the year that SPC has been involved in a single-digit outcome in 33 contests.
Along with Kidd’s game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, South Plains put three other scorers in double figures. Yanick Moreira registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Henderson and Tymell Murphy added 10 points each for the winners.
“South Plains is No. 1 in the country for a reason,” White continued. “They’re from a very tough league that has had teams in the national championship game five straight years. They’re a great team and they’re battle-tested.
“As for us, we had a couple of bad minutes there in the beginning of the second half, but we competed, played hard and we didn’t back down. We proved in the first half that we could guard them and compete with them.”
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 March 2012 )|
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