FT. WORTH, TX -- It was the biggest early season test the #2-ranked LSUA men's basketball team could ask for, the #1-ranked team in the NAIA Preseason Top 25 Coaches' Poll, and the Generals passed it with flying by building up a 20-point lead in the first half over The Master's and survived the late run to defeat the Mustangs 94-87 Thursday night as part of the Texas Wesleyan Champions Classis at the Sid Richardson Center.
In a game where LSUA led from gate to post, JaMichael Brown got things started with a little floater to give the Generals the lead for good. In fact, the Generals scored the game's first nine points, taking advantage of an off-shooting start by the Mustangs, as LSUA ran off of a Master's miss and Chris Vickers finished a fast break lay-up to make it 9-0 just more than five minutes into the contest.
The lead continued to balloon as Brown stole a pass and raced down the court for another lay-up to push the lead up to 20-2 with 12:30 left in the first half. The lead would hit 20 points just ten minutes into the contest as Donovan Thomas found Phillip Rankin who flushed it home to give LSUA a 28-8 advantage. That would peak at 28 points with less than 5:30 remaining in the first half as JaMichael Brown found Mikkel Norment open above the arc for a three-pointer to push the advantage to 42-14.
But, as you'd expect with the top team in the NAIA, The Master's wasn't going down like that, slowly starting to whittle at LSUA's lead to cut it all the way down to 15 points with a 17-4 run that made the score 46-31 with less than a minute left before the break on a Tim Soares basket. Norment would close the scoring in the half with a floater in the lane to give the Generals a 48-31 lead as the two teams went to the locker room.
Right out of the break, the Generals went on the attack again, getting the lead back above 20 points, all the way to a 26-point lead as a Brandon Ellis three ball made the score 57-31 with just less than 17:00 left in the contest.
However, that's when The Master's started their furious run to try to steal the game that had been dominated to that point by LSUA as Jordan Starr's bucket started a quick 11-0 Mustangs run that cut the Generals lead to 57-42. After a LSUA made free throw stalled the run for several minutes as the LSUA lead fluctuated between 17 points and 13 points over the next four minutes.
With the Generals up 66-49, the Mustangs made another push with a 10-0 run as Hodges Bailey scored to make it a seven point game at 66-59 with 9:00 remaining, and the game was on. LSUA pushed the lead back up to 11 on a JaMichael Brown bucket, and The Master's would spend the next four minutes trying to make that up, cutting the LSUA lead down to just five points on a Bailey three-pointer that made it 80-75 with five minutes left.
But that would be as close as The Master's would get the rest of the way as Phillip Rankin and JaMichael Brown got back-to-back buckets to get the Generals some breathing room. The Mustangs would get it to five points again at 90-85 with less than a minute left, but LSUA got two free throws and a bucket down the stretch to keep The Master's at bay.
"This is a solid win," said LSUA head coach Larry Cordaro. "We played a quality team and got a quality win from it. However, we can't celebrate for too long because we have to come back and play another top-15 team right back here tomorrow on their home floor, something we'll have to get used to fast for conference play. We have a lot of things we can look at to correct. Sometimes we show flashes of excellence and others we struggle, especially defensively. But all-in-all, this was a great win away from home and a great accomplishment for our young program."
Phillip Rankin led the way for the Generals with 21 points as he made seven of his eight shots in the contest while also converting six of seven from the free throw line, while also grabbing a team high eight rebounds. William Claiborne was also nearly perfect from the field, going eight of nine from the field and made all three of his free throw attempts to finish with 19 points. JaMichael Brown, coming off of a record-setting 12 assist game against SUNO, finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Mikkel Norment made all three shots he took in the contest, two of them from deep, and made three of four at the stripe for 11 points. Malek Harris closed out the leading scorers for the Generals with ten points. LSUA shot 63.5% from the field in the contest, including 53.8% from above the arc. Defensively, The Master's (0-1) hit on 55.4% of their shots and 56.3% from deep. The Generals hit five more free throws than the Mustangs did, 21-16.
The #2 Generals (2-0) finish the Texas Wesleyan Champions Classic on Friday with a contest against the host institution, #11 Texas Wesleyan University. Tip off against the 11th-ranked Rams is set for 3:00 P.M. at the Sid Richardson Center.