ALEXANDRIA, La. (LSUA) - A Devin Jackson four-point play gave the #1 LSUA men’s basketball team the push it needed to get past a very tough LSU Shreveport squad as the Generals extended their longest win streak of the season into double digits with a 112-105 win over the Pilots Thursday night at The Fort.
After LSUS jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, the Generals tried to take control of the game early as a 16-2 run gave LSUA an early 18-9 lead as Jordan Adebutu found Philip Rankin, Jr. under the bucket for an easy two points with 13:00 left in the half. The Pilots slowly worked that down to just a two-point deficit as Tim Coleman converted all three of a three-shot free throw opportunity to make it 25-23 LSUA with less than 9:30 left in the half.
LSUA quickly answered that Pilot push with eight straight points to get the lead to double digits for the first time as Malek Harris converted a pair at the stripe with just less than eight minutes left to make it 33-23 Generals. Still, the Pilots fought back with a 15-4 run as Coleman hit a three-pointer to put the Pilots up 38-37 with less than five minutes left before halftime. LSUA got the lead back on another pair of Harris free throws, but couldn’t stretch out the lead in the closing minutes of the period, allowing the Pilots to quickly inbound and get down the court and beat the buzzer with a three-pointer by Jeff Garrett to give LSUS the lead heading into the halftime locker room, 49-48.
The Pilots used the momentum of the buzzer beater to start quickly in the second half, starting the period on a 15-9 spurt to push the LSUS lead out to its largest of the contest on a Josh Stamps fast break bucket that gave the Pilots a 64-57 lead with less than 15:30 remaining. LSUA quickly responded with six straight points to get that deficit down to just a single point on a William Claiborne put back that cut it to 64-63 with just more than 13:30 left. Over the next few minutes, the largest lead for either team would be a five-point Pilots advantage, but that was only setting up for the game’s key play.
With just more than seven minutes remaining and LSUS leading 83-79, Chris Vickers found Devin Jackson all alone in the left corner. Jackson released the shot before Shaviarre Murray could close out, causing the contact and the referee’s whistle to blow as the ball swished through the net for a possible four-point play. Jackson converted the free throw, and LSUA’s game-ending run was on, the first four points of a 22-5 LSUA run that gave the Generals their largest lead of the game as Vickers worked the ball inside to Harris for an easy lay-up and a 101-88 lead with just less than 2:30 remaining in the contest. LSUS would cut the deficit to five, but by then there was only 18 seconds remaining and LSUA closed out the win.
“This is one of the great NAIA rivalries where both teams always bring it against each other,” said LSUA head coach Larry Cordaro. “We knew they had a lot of weapons and are a well-coached, talented team, so we’re fortunate to come out of this game with this win. I knew our depth inside would be key, which it was, with double-doubles from Malek Harris and Phillip Rankin, Jr., and another big scoring night from William Claiborne. And then our guards did a real good job of taking quality three-pointers so that we hit for a good percentage as a team. I’d also like to credit our fans, who packed The Fort almost as full as we could get it for tonight’s game and screamed loudly and definitely made a difference in tonight’s win. It’s good to get the win streak to ten games, but we have to keep it going next week and continue to protect home court, starting with the team that gave us our only conference loss so far, so we’re going to be looking forward to that one.”
Malek Harris led the way with his first career double-double as a General with a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists and a steal. William Claiborne also dropped in 20 points on the rare night where he had more assists than rebounds, finishing with six dimes and four boards. Chris Vickers dropped in 19 points, nine of which came on three made three-point shots, along with six assists. Phillip Rankin, Jr. picked up his team-leading seventh double-double of the season with 17 points and a team-high 13 rebounds while also adding two blocked shots. Brandon Ellis finished the night with 15 points and four assists. Devin Jackson rounded out the leading scorers with ten points as he made three three-point shots on the evening, including the momentum-swinging four-point play.
The Generals shot 62.1% in the second half on their way to 64 points in the last 20 minutes to finish the game hitting on 56.3% of their shots overall in the contest. On the other hand, after hitting for 52.9% in the first half, LSUS (12-9, 5-4 RRAC) was held to 45.9% in the second half and finished at 49.3% for the contest. LSUA hit one more field goal overall than LSUS, though the Pilots hit two more three-pointers than the Generals did with LSUA hitting 45.5% from deep while LSUS hit an even 40.0% from above the arc. In a game where free throws were aplenty, the Generals were 30 of 38 at the charity stripe while LSUS was 23 of 32 at the free throw line. On the glass, the Generals out-rebounded the Pilots 42-31. LSUS was among other teams receiving votes in the most recent NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Top 25 Coaches’ Poll.
#1 LSUA (18-2, 8-1 RRAC) now enjoys the rest of the week off before preparing for the back half of conference play, starting with the team that gave LSUA its lone loss in RRAC competition so far this season, Jarvis Christian. Tip off against the Bulldogs (7-8, 4-4 RRAC) is set for 7:00 P.M. next Thursday, January 24th in The Fort.