ALEXANDRIA -- The #1 LSUA men's basketball team honored seven seniors playing their final home game in The Fort, and sent them out with an emphatic victory by jumping out midway through the first half and never looked back in a 110-70 trouncing of the Philander Smith Panthers Tuesday night at The Fort.
The first seven minutes of the contest were back and forth with the teams exchanging the lead a total of ten times. But when Devin Jackson pulled up and drained a three ball with just more than 13:30 remaining, the Generals recaptured the lead at 18-16 and would not give it up the rest of the way as the pace of the game picked up and LSUA was on the run. That three was the start of a 44-16 run by the Generals that turned a tightly contested game into the start of a blowout as Donovan Thomas received a kick out pass from JaMichael Brown and drained his own three pointer to give LSUA a 59-32 lead with less than three minutes left before halftime. LSUA led 59-37 at the break.
After keeping the deficit in the low 20s for the first part of the second half, Philander Smith could hold back the LSUA attack no more as a Chris Vickers lay-up moved the score to 68-44 and started another big Generals push, a 23-4 run culminating with a Mikkel Norment lay-up for an 89-47 LSUA lead with just less than 11 minutes left in the contest. The lead hit its peak several minutes later as William Claiborne converted an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Generals a 44 point advantage, 101-57, with 6:03 left in the game.
With the game well in hand, the final six minutes were mostly a celebration of the seven seniors who were playing their final home game on this night, getting all seven of them a chance to get in, and come out to big ovations from the crowd in The Fort.
"Tonight was a wonderful way to complete the home schedule," said LSUA head coach Larry Cordaro. "Our players played together, shared the basketball well, and had fun doing it against a very solid Philander Smith club. We had energy on both sides of the floor and got to put on a bit of a show for the best fan in the NAIA, and get our seniors a chance to each come out one by one and receive the applause they've earned. It's always rewarding to get to cut down the nets for claiming a regular season title, especially since we fell short of that goal for the first time last year, so we got to have some fun tonight. But now, we have another real stiff challenge ahead of us to close out the regular season. LSUS is always a daunting task, especially in Shreveport, and we know there's a lot on the line when we go up there Saturday, We have to play each remaining game like it's a national championship and trust that our rigorous pre-conference schedule has prepared us well for these tough challenges ahead."
William Claiborne, who was named the RRAC's Player of the Week on Monday, led the Generals attack with 16 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Chris Vickers hit four three-pointers on his way to 14 points. Phillip Rankin, Jr. retook the LSUA double-doubles lead on the season with 13 points and 17 rebounds, just one shy of the LSUA single game rebounding record of 18, currently held by Gilbert Talbot. Rankin also blocked three shots and came up with a pair of steals. Devin Jackson and Mikkel Norment each finished with 11 points. Brandon Ellis rounded out the leading scorers with ten points as well as eight assists. JaMichael Brown tied his own LSUA single game record by doling out 13 assists in the contest, the third time he's done that in a game this season. Brown also added nine points and five rebounds.
LSUA finished the contest hitting 50.6% of their shots, and continued to rain three-pointers, dropping in 15 from long distance. Defensively, the Generals held Philander Smith (11-16) to just 39.4% from the field. A key factor in the game was LSUA took care of the ball, while causing the Panthers into a number of mistakes. The Generals only turned the ball over six times in the contest, compared to 15 by the Panthers.
The #1 Generals (27-2, 16-1 RRAC) close out the regular season on Saturday as LSUA heads north on I-49 to take on #20 LSU Shreveport in the regular season finale. Tip-off against the #20 Pilots (20-9, 13-4 RRAC) is set for 4:00 P.M. at The Dock and can be heard in central Louisiana live on ESPN 94.7 FM.