LONGVIEW, Tx -- The #13 LSUA men’s basketball team wasn’t going to let its fourth season end without a championship, taking down the Raising Cane’s RRAC Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship for a second straight time and for the third time in four seasons, defeating the Langston Lions 82-75 Saturday evening at LeTourneau University’s Solheim Arena.
The LSUA offense struggled to start the game as Langston scored the game’s first six points before a William Claiborne bucket got the Generals on the board for the first time. The Lions continued to grow their early advantage to its peak several possessions later on a pair of Brandon Eboigbodin free throws that gave Langston a 9-2 lead just more than four minutes into the game.
But the quick start didn’t faze the Generals as Brandon Moss scored on a second chance opportunity on LSUA’s next possession to start an 11-3 Generals run that resulted in LSUA’s first lead of the game as Shannon James, Jr. found Jordin Williams cutting to the bucket for a lay-up and a 13-12 Generals lead with 12:30 left in the first half.
With Langston holding a 17-14 lead, Joseph Feraci found himself open for three to tie the game and start a 10-0 run that completely turned Langston’s quick start as Jordin Williams pulled up and drained a three-pointer to give the Generals a seven point lead at 24-17 with just about 8:30 left in the half. Williams, who started to get in a rhythm that would lead to good things for LSUA. scored seven of the ten points in the run.
However, Langston would respond with the next six points, part of a bigger 11-4 Lion push that tied the game back up on another Eboigbodin three pointer that made it 28-28. LSUA went on another 7-0 run, culminating in a James to Brandon Moss alley oop slam to make it 35-28 with just more than 2:30 left in the first half. LSUA would get its largest lead of the first half a few possessions later as Moss dropped it down low to Donovan Thomas, who laid it home for a 37-29 lead. But that would be LSUA’s last points of the half as the Lions scored the last two buckets to cut the Generals advantage in half, down to 37-33 when the horn sounded.
Much like the beginning of the game, it was Langston who came out of the locker room hot, turning the 4-0 spurt at the end of the half into a 12-2 Lion run to reclaim the lead as Diamante Langston scored to make the score 41-39 Langston just 3:30 into the second half. After trading buckets over the next few possessions, the Lions got their largest lead of the second half as James Morris, Jr. drained a long ball to give Langston a 49-45 advantage with less than 14:30 to go in the contest.
But one of the biggest plays of the game came on LSUA’s ensuing possession as Shannon James, Jr. worked into the lane, kicked out to Jordin Williams who had just popped out above the arc who rose and fired off the three ball as a Langston defender flew by and clipped him, drawing the foul with the ball sailing through the hoop. Williams would sink the free throw to finish the four-point play and tie the game up at 49-49. Williams would follow that with two more free throws, and Trent Brinkley would hit one too to cap another 7-0 Generals run for a 52-49 LSUA lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Langston would respond with five straight to retake the lead, but when James rose up and drilled a wing left three with just less than 11 minutes left, the Generals would not trail again.
The Lions would tie the game one more time as Marques Mondy collected a steal and went all the way himself for a dunk to even the score at 58-58. But on LSUA’s ensuing possession, William Claiborne was hit while trying to collect his own missed shot. He would go to the line and hit both bonus free throws to give the Generals the lead for good.
Nursing a four point lead with 2:30 to go in the game, LSUA’s defense took over, not allowing the Lions to make a field goal for almost all of the time remaining, while free throws helped the Generals expand the lead for double digits for the only time in the contest, which Jordin Williams attained at the charity stripe with just 17 seconds remaining in the contest to put the championship banner in the Generals’ hands.
“What a win this was to for the program to repeat as tournament champions for the first time,” said LSUA head coach Larry Cordaro. “This run says a lot about the heart of this group of guys we here. All four of our seniors on the floor contributed in a big way, whether it’s Jordin and Brandon’s consistent scoring, or Joe and Shannon stepping up and making some big shots when we needed them. We knew we needed to play really well against Langston, they’re a well-coached, gritty club and they gave us their all tonight. We had a goal in mind, take control of this tournament and leave no doubt about our spot in the national tournament, and we succeeded in that goal.”
Jordin Williams, who earlier this season broke the LSUA single game scoring record with 38 points at LSU Shreveport, threatened that record, finishing the championship game with 34 points on his way to being named the Tournament’s MVP. He made nine shots, including four three pointers in the contest, while also hitting 12 of his 13 attempts from the free throw line. Brandon Moss added another double-double to his season total, finishing the game with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while also adding five assists, two blocked shots, and two steals. Moss was also named to the All-Tournament team. Shannon James, Jr. stepped up when he was called upon, hitting a couple of big three pointers in the contest on his way to ten points. James made all three shots he took, two from above the arc, and both free throws he attempted in the contest.
The Generals shot well in the entire game, finishing the contest hitting at a 56.5% cli, including 44.4% from above the three point arc. However, the Generals held Langston (20-11) to 43.1% shooting from the field, including 38.1% from deep. Getting to the free throw line was the key in a game with a high foul count. LSUA made 22 of 28 shots from the free throw line, while Langston was 17 of 22 at the stripe.
#13 LSUA (25-7) now await their assignment in the NAIA National Championship Tournament. The Generals will find out their path to a national title on Wednesday night at 6:00 P.M. when the NAIA’s Bracket Reveal Show is aired. The 81st Annual Buffalo Funds NAIA National Championship Tournament runs March 14th-20th at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.