Fueled by big first half run, LSUA declaws Bearcats

LSUA forward Joe Lewis
LSUA forward Joe Lewis(Cameron Mosely, LSUA Sports Media)
Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 7:23 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fl (LSUA) - The LSUA men’s basketball team used a 30-9 run in the final 10 minutes of the first half as it overcame double-digit and turned it into a 90-76 win over Rust on Monday afternoon in the first day of the Battle at the Beach.

LSUA (6-0) trailed 28-18 following one of Malik Anderson’s five triples in the game with 10 minutes to play in the half, but the defense put the clamps down on the Rust offense, not allowing a made field goal in the ensuing 5:55 and surrendering just two field goals in the final 10 minutes.

“Rust is a good team with a lot of good players,” LSUA Assistant Coach Tyler Doyle said. “I’m proud of the way the guys played today. Coaching this group is fun. We came out slow but these guys picked it up quickly and picked each other up as well.

“These guys play for each other, they never let one another get down and that’s really good for us.”

While the defense was suffocating the Bearcats, the offense came to life, as Nicholls transfer A.J. Rainey sparked a 10- run to tie the score. Rainey scored five of his game-high 29 points during the 10-0 run and nine in the extended 30-9 run.

Fellow Nicholls transfer Anquaevious Pollard scored 10 of his 18 points in the opening half, including getting the friendly roll on a 3-pointer from the top of the key to end the half and give LSUA the 48-37 lead at recess.

The Generals kept Rust at arm’s length the entire second half. Whenever the Bearcats made a bit of a run to cut the deficit to 10, LSUA made a big shot to stem the tide.

Early in the second half, Rust cut the deficit to six on a 7-0 run, but Rainey drilled a triple, one of his five made 3-pointers in seven attempts, from the right wing to push the lead back to nine.

As a team, LSUA hit on 11 of its 21 3-point attempts and shot 53 percent overall, compared to 35.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep for Rust.

After Rust had cut the deficit to 69-59, Pollard scored on a layup and Casey Smith hit a 3-pointer to expand the lead back to 14.

Smith scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

“I was really happy with our guard play,” Doyle said. “A.J. was very efficient with his shots. Casey hit some huge shots for us off the bench. Our bench was really huge for us this game too. Those guys are always ready when their number is called.

Rust (4-4) cut the deficit to six following another Bearcats triple, but Rainey scored on the other end to push it to eight and hit a 3-pointer to seal the Generals win.

A game after Dillard dominated the glass against LSUA, the Generals won the battle of the boards 44-34 against one of the better rebounding teams in the nation, ranking 39th in the country in that category with 41 per contest.

“We won this game on the boards,” Doyle said. “As a coaching staff, we really challenged our team and our bigs this game to win the rebounding battle. Anquaevious (Pollard), Joe (Lewis) and (Jalen) Perkins really did a great job keeping them off the boards and finishing possessions on defense for us.”

Joe Lewis earned his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Keshon Tabb led the Bearcats with 19 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

The Generals are back in action on Tuesday when they play in a heavyweight fight against No. 2 Loyola before playing on Wednesday against either Brescia or Science & Arts.

“It was a great overall team effort today from top to bottom,” Doyle said. “Now time to get ready for Loyola tomorrow. It should be a fun one.”

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